Sweat from the Heart: Coach Bree’s Blog on Training, Racing and Life.
We live in a “get better, always strive for better, never give up, never settle for less than your best” society. This is the (exhausting) mentality we are told to have if we are to be successful adults. And as athletes, we continue this mentality in our sport. Personally, I’m guilty. In fact, most times it’s hard for me to race for fun. I have to FORCE myself to race for fun. Sometimes that’s harder than an aggressive race plan aiming for a PR. I’m competitive. It can be a blessing and a curse, but honestly, I think it’s more of a curse. Like, I won’t sign up for races if I know I’m not in the best of shape. But I cannot be in the best shape 24/7/365. It’s impossible. And you can’t either.
We cannot pursue athletics with a 100% effort all the time. Burnout will happen. And it does happen.
A first rule (or a rule high on the list) in endurance sports is consistency. There needs to be consistency of training but not “100% effort consistency”. In a pursuit to always better yourself, you risk injury or burnout, or worse, both.
Burnout is a word that floats around, but how many of us really acknowledge it? It’s almost like an elephant in the room. If you look away maybe it won’t see you or your won’t see it. It’s obvious, awkward, and no one wants to address it. It’s really hard to admit you might be burned out. It’s almost like you’re admitting to being a failure. That somehow you’re not good enough.
That’s how I initially feel during times of burnout. Yes, I get burned out from time to time. I am already going a mile a minute with my business, the demands of being a mom to a not so easy kiddo (what kid is really easy anyway?!), so to add one more high energy passion to the plate and it’s a hard effort to keep it all balanced. After a few races, I need a physical and mental break. But I don’t just sit on the couch and eat crap (well, sometimes I do!). I still exercise but at lighter intensity and I change it up. I spend more time at our studio lifting weights. I like the break and the change of pace. I also pick up new hobbies or interests and do things I ordinarily wouldn’t have time for. Recently I have become decent at roller skating (I call myself decent, others might say I suck, but whatever). On most Sundays our family hits up the skating rink, the day I would normally be on my bike for hours, and I get to practice and enjoy a new skill. For me, taking a break from racing is like hitting a reset button. And when the time is right, I’m always excited to start back up.
Here’s some free coaching advice. Take it or leave it. No hard feelings if you disagree.
You can’t go from race to race in a constant pursuit to get better. While the overall goal is to improve, you need to map out specific times during the season to achieve that goal. You can’t do it at every race, every time. There are seasons of racing with specific training and racing goals, and seasons of low key, no pressure, fun training. The key is finding the perfect balance.
Pick new and different races. Don’t race the same events over and over hoping to get faster each time. While this is good to do for some races (tracks progression), don’t do this season after season. You’ll lose interest, get bored, and risk burnout. Pick new races. Set new goals. Keep the excitement going.
Spend some time just training and not having an immediate race on the schedule. Reconnect with yourself. Rediscover why you fell in love with the sport. Time away can be a wonderful reset button. You’ll come back with more passion and drive than ever before. Hellllooo new personal records! (This happens to me every time I take a break from racing).
You can learn just as much about yourself in the off-season (non race season) as you can during the in-season (racing season). So don’t think you’re missing out on anything, you’re not. Stop those negative thoughts dead in their tracks.
So, if you’re in a funk or burned out from your 2015 season, change your mindset and spend some time reconnecting with yourself. Just train for the joy of it. Scale back on intensity and duration and enjoy yourself. Don’t feel pressured to put a race on the calendar just yet. And don’t put pace goals on your workouts either. Just train. Pop in on social runs and rides. Train solo if that’s your preference. Try out strength training if you haven’t already. Maybe hit up yoga. The key is to remain consistent and create opportunities for growth and self-discovery.
And if you’re feeling guilty, don’t. We are our own worst enemy. We can tell ourselves some ugly lies. Reflect on your season of racing, focus on the good aspects, don’t dwell on the negative, and spend some time rekindling the endurance romance.