Feeling Burnt Out on Running? Read This.

I’ve been training specifically for the 5K race distance since mid August. Now being at the end of the year, I’m getting kind of sick of it. Am I burnt out on running? Let’s dive in.

If you listen to my podcast, The Multifaceted Athlete with Coaching Klutz, you know that I ran my first 5k race on December 11 and that I have another on January 15. I’ve been (loosely) following Jack Daniels’ 5k training plan, which consists of 3 phases of training, each 6 weeks in length. That’s a lot of weeks of dedicated training, especially after training for most of 2022.

After the December 5k, it’s started to feel like ya girl needs a break from this.

Let’s talk about the signs that you may be trending towards burnout and what to do.

Signs You May Be (getting) Burnt Out

Let me start off with I don’t think I am burnt out, but if I continue in this manner, I definitely will get to that point. As a coach and athlete, I want to catch burnout before it happens. This is why knowing the signs within myself is key.

1. Low Motivation

We all know that you can’t rely on motivation all the time for training. But when you notice that every day for over a week, you don’t feel a shred of motivation to go running, that may be an issue.

For me, this has felt like resistance to wanting to go running. What this looks like for me has been procrastinating my runs later into the day, even though I greatly dislike running in the afternoon.

My saving grace is that even though I feel resistant to getting out the door, once I’m out running, it feels (mostly) great. This detail is part of the reason I haven’t been too concerned about my lack of motivation – tis the season for staying inside and not doing much, after all.

2. High Fatigue and/or Decreased Running Performance

Fatigue in and of itself doesn’t mean you’re burnt out – it’s a natural byproduct of training hard. Fatigue can be an indicator of burnout when it is consistent, even with rest days, as can running performance. Each run won’t always be better than the last, performance wise, but your key workouts shouldn’t fluctuate much (assuming there is no outside influence for this like less sleep, weather conditions, etc).

Take note if your fatigue is higher than normal with similar training or if fatigue is higher after similar workouts you’ve done in the past. There are many variables to take into consideration when deciding if fatigue is cause for alarm or not, so don’t spiral if you do feel fatigued. It’s just one piece of the puzzle.

3. Trends Over time

You may have gathered this from the first 2 points, but what matters most is if you notice low motivation and higher fatigue over an extended period of time. Low motivation and high fatigue happen within any training block – if it happens for weeks on end, then we have a problem.

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made as an athlete is not tracking subjective feedback daily. How can we identify trends if we don’t track any data?

If you aren’t already, I highly recommend tracking motivation, fatigue, stress, soreness, and sleep at a minimum day to day. You can do this in a physical notebook/journal, within TrainingPeaks (under Metrics), or using an app like HRV4Training each morning (this is what I personally do). The key is finding whatever will allow you to be consistent with it, and then looking back at your data to identify any trends.

Okay, so you think you may be teetering on the edge of burnout…. now what?

It depends on your situation but you have some options.

Let’s start with what I’m doing. Like I mentioned, I have another race in mid January, which means only one more week of dedicated 5k training. Since my running performance hasn’t been suffering, I don’t think I’m staring burnout in the face. I’m just staring at it from afar, hoping it doesn’t come any closer.

I’m keeping my training the same through the race, with some flexibility with workouts depending on how I feel, and then taking a break after the race. My break after the race will likely look a week of no structure to start. Following this, it’ll be all easy, aerobic miles with more strength training sessions.

So what will this week look like? This week will look like a ‘do what you want’ week – run if you want, don’t run if you don’t.

Taking the pressure off “having” to go running will allow the space I need to get excited about running again. I have some big goals in 2023, so I need that excitement back!

If you have a race coming up in the near future and you’re not super close to being burnt out, this is a good option.

If your race is farther out or you feel like burnout is breathing down your neck, I would take a break sooner. That may mean a complete break from running, a break from speed workouts, or a break from structured training.

Remember – a break from running may feel like a step back, but in the long term, it only propels you forward.

Coach Kelly

I’m a certified running and ultrarunning coach who helps women, trans and nonbinary runners with a focus on long term training sustainability. My favorite distance to coach is the 50k.

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Happy training!

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