Half way through my 5K training plan, I felt sluggish. My body was having difficulty adapting to training. I felt slow and in worse condition than when I started. After my mid-plan 5K test didn’t show any improvement, I wondered if I was wasting my time. Little did I know, I was on my way to writing a blog post on how to deal with runner’s burnout. 

How to deal with runner's burnout

Midplan 5K test

Despite knowing that training is not a linear progression, I had an irrational and significant tank in motivation.

I felt exhausted and frustrated.

My 3 mile run was stressing me out and I had trouble getting out the door. You don’t always have to be enthusiastic about a run, but I was feeling worry, anger, and physical fatigue. I felt a lot of symptoms similar to my depression, to a lesser degree and time-frame.

I couldn’t even wrap my head around it until I texted TH and had to put my feelings into words.

“I think I’m burning out on this training plan”

How to deal with runner's burnout crashing

Crashing on a 3 miler

Burnout is basically becoming exhausted as a result of making unrealistic, excessive demands on your energy or resources. Burnout is a condition that has physical, emotional, and psychological aspects. Burnout is real and it leads to fatigue, loss of motivation, depression, and even anger. (running.net)

OK, check, check, check, check…

I think for those with go-get-’em goal-oriented personalities, runner’s burnout is going to happen at least once. And I know that I’m prone to it 2/3rds through a marathon plan (3 months of logging miles!!). The sooner you recognize the symptoms and deal with it, the better off you’ll be. If you were smart (unlike me), you could even avoid it entirely.

Runner’s burnout symptoms:

  1. Constantly tired, like you can’t recover from your workout
  2. Trouble sleeping, not enough sleep
  3. Changes in eating habits or weight
  4. Mood swings, increased irritability
  5. Lower tolerance for frustration
  6. Basic lack of motivation to run
  7. Feeling helpless, depressed

Burnout could start physically or mentally, and then lead to the other. Burnout can make you prone to injury, and worst of all can make you hate something that you probably started for enjoyment.

How to deal with runner's burnout shoes and dog

Are we going for a run, ma? I’m trying.

How to deal with runner’s burnout:

  1. Lower your expectations
  2. Lower your demands
  3. Cross train instead of run
  4. Take a break from running
  5. Be gentle with yourself
  6. Stop feeling guilty

I took a deep breath and asked TH for help. He encouraged me to run half of the 3 miler, which I did. I then took a rest day and a cross-train day. I pulled it together for speedwork on Thursday and raced my long run on Saturday.

Going back to a long run was definitely a spark for this runner. I didn’t feel burned out there. I felt refreshed.

How to deal with runner's 10K medal

2nd place of 5 women

Motivation peaks and wanes, ebbs and flows, and even tanks. It’s natural. Find the difference between when you need a kick out the door, and when you’ve overworked yourself to exhaustion.

Your body and mind is requesting a break. Don’t fight fire with fire. You’ll extend and worsen the burnout if you push forward with guilt, frustration, and anger. Give your body and mind the short break it’s asking for, so you can get back to kicking butt.

You, butt-kicker, you.

Sources and Further reading:

Have you ever experienced runner’s burnout?

What did you do?