Defined as physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress, “burnout” has intercepted our lives in some aspect at some point.
Consider how many gym memberships purchased in January go unused in July, the attrition of half your marathon training program group or how all you can think about is a cheeseburger two weeks into a new diet plan.
We often characterize “life” as the barrier to maintaining our fitness programs year-round, and indeed children, school, work and illness all limit our recreation time and energy. But what other factors or situational stressors block your ambition and eventually cause physical or mental stagger? In many ways, the path toward burnout parallels the one towards physical breakdown or injury – i.e. certain habits or lack of certain habits (such as those listed below) will accelerate the process.
If you want to burn out quickly…
Failing to plan is planning to fail, as the saying goes, and creating lofty, long-term goals without establishing checkpoints along the way is failing to plan. Shoot for the moon, but include intermediate and short-term goals to assure that you remain on track to achieve your long-term goals.
•Long-term goal: I will finish a marathon this year.
•Intermediate goal: I will finish a half marathon within the next six months.
•Short-term goal: Within the next week, I will jog three times for a minimum of 10 minutes each run.
Smart goals are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable and Timed
Writing goals down (on paper, using a smartphone app or online software program) is more than essential, it is obligatory. Working with a coach or sports psychologist can help your planning and assessment to assure you create smart goals.
Do Not Self-Assess
Your goal-setting process should include assessing weak links in the chain and how to address them. Using the example above of planning to finish a marathon, short-term goals could include completing some form of a fitness test, such as a one-mile run for time, gait analysis, nutrition consultation, body composition analysis, etc.
•Short-term Goal No. 2: Within the next two weeks, I will complete a one-mile run for time to assess my current fitness status.
Intermediate goals should re-evaluate these tests every few weeks to validate your program and determine what tweaks you may need to make. Modifying goals along the way (to account for “life”) is a likely key to achievement and subsequently, sustained motivation. Altering your long-term goals outdoes completely falling short of goals; for example, switching from the full marathon to the half marathon two weeks before a race is better than not showing up.
Skimp on Sleep
Research suggests those who sleep less than six hours per night are at greater risk for burnout. Lack of sleep can cause fatigue, impaired mental function and increased sensitivity to stress, as well as decreased motivation and physical performance. In a busy world, we seem to prioritize so much at the expense of ZZZs; however, it is not the early bird who catches the worm, but the well-rested one.
Don’t Take Time to Truly Relax
Multiple experts agree that a key to avoiding burnout from your job is being able to turn off work when you get home. Likewise, tuning out from regimented or high-intensity exercise from time to time is essential to maintaining a long-term fitness program.
Focusing solely on your training (or job, for that matter), leads to missing out on the physical and emotional recovery necessary to handle progressive challenges. Expert coaches suggest taking at least one day per week completely off from structured exercise and including another day or two of restorative activities (yoga, hikes, naps and Sunday football couch potato-ing all count as restoration).
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