Thursday, August 20, 2009

Burned Out? Shorten Things Up!

In the weeks following Race Across Oregon, I experienced a burnout worse than anything I could've imagined. I thought I'd never move again. I hated everything about sports. My body was beyond sore, but my brain was fried. I never thought it could get so bad, or last so long. A nice wallop of depression, surely mostly from endorphin withdrawal, sealed my fate as a zoned out, down-on-myself, anti-social couch hugger.

But I am moving again!

And what got me going? The thought of racing again. Really racing--not just outlasting--my competitors.

I want to be fast.

It's a goal of which I will never tire. Probably because I am not innately so.

Just like that, short triathlon is back in my life, because it's possible to see measurable improvements week after week without expending too much time working at it. Which means a lot less time forcing my brain to focus, which means hopefully, it'll come back around soon. Switching it up between sports helps, too.

Ironically (or probably it was planned this way), Triathlete's "mental issue" (aka sports psychology edition) came out right when I was in the throes of mental attrition. I'm taking this as a sign that I'm not the only athlete who has burned out mid-July-August. I'm just surprised at how long the burnout has lasted.

We triathletes are strange and amazing. Most articles on athlete burnout pertain to young athletes (10-20 years old) who are on teams with crazy coaches and who have no control over their schedules. Amateur adult triathletes, like myself, compete only at their own will and have only themselves to answer to at the end of the day. There is nobody else to dissapoint, and participating at all is our own decision.

It is incredible that we can push ourselves so far as to become burned out on a sport, that for many of us, we got into to stay in shape, meet new people, have fun, see new places, and set athletic goals.

If you've committed to racing longer than 24 hours recently, it may seem like training as little as 7 hours/week is failing.

What helped me destroy that thought is realizing that I can still reach a goal (in my current case, an olympic distance tri) training just as little as my brain will currently allow, even if that means it wants to take off 2+ days in a row.

So if you're racing sprints and Olympic distance races this year, please look for me and give me a cheer--my brain could use the boost!

Perhaps this burnout was a blessing in disquise so I'd be psyched for collegiate racing this year and not attempt anything crazy for the duration of my masters' program.

Bring it, collegiate triathlon!


  1. I had a tough time relating to the collegiate crowd because of the age gap (29 when I started at UCSD). As a result, I only raced one season and didn't enjoy the experience. I hope you have more fun than I did.

  2. That stinks! I'm under the general impression that the grad student population participating on tri teams has grown in the past few years.