Let's Talk About Burnout

Today I'm here to talk about every runner's favorite subject- burnout.

I've always liked to race a lot.  Races are the best kind of speed work for me- they always bring out the best in me and the competition brings out a different side of me that I just can't get alone.  So, every year I always sign up for a ton of races throughout the year.  I don't pay attention to timing or recovery- I just want to race a lot.  Plus- if nothing else it always gave me lots of blog content ;)

For the past few years, this has worked out great for me.  I always looked forward to racing and training for races.  It didn't matter if I had a race every week- I was always excited!

This year things seemed to change for me.  I made a goal to run more races, but there were a lot of other changes going on in my life.  Dan and I bought a house and moved out of the city, we got married, and I got a new job.  I didn't think that any of these things would really affect my running, because running was always my escape when things got stressful or boring.

After a while, I realized that I had used running to fill holes in my life.  I didn't really like living in an apartment, where I felt like I didn't have room for any hobbies.  I tried to stay outside as long as possible, because I always felt so bored in our tiny apartment where all I could really do was watch TV.  I had the same job since I graduated from college, and I knew it was time for a new change.  So, running was my escape and a way for me to have something to work towards and feel proud about.

Once we moved and I got a new job, everything seemed to change.  I absolutely love what I do and am always working overtime voluntarily.  We also live further away, so instead of working 8 hours and having a total of 30 minute commute every day, I'm working 10+ hour days and have a 45 minute commute each way.  I didn't really think that this would change my running, but after a while working that much started to wear on me and I just didn't have the motivation to run as much as I could.

Then there's the fact that I have a new house.  In case you don't know- houses are a lot of work.  Every weekend it seems like we're busy doing house improvements which I absolutely love!  I love being able to make changes to our house and feel like I'm useful at home.

As much as I didn't think that my real life would affect my running, this year I realized that sometimes life has to come first.  I always used running in place of other things in my life and used it as my main identity.  Heck- I even used GretchRuns as my blog name, because it feels like a big part of me.

Right now, there's so many good things in my life, that I don't always feel the need to run.  This leads to me not wanting to run races because I don't feel prepared for them, which makes me resent running instead of running it.  This has been a vicious cycle this year and lead to running burnout.

The good thing about running- it doesn't go anywhere.  I can pick any day to go for a run, I can pick any race to run at any time of the year.  Right now, I can't find a good balance with running and real life that works for me, but I know I will.  And when I'm ready, running will be there waiting for me.

Have you ever gone through burnout in your life?
How did you find a good balance?
Do you race a lot, or prefer to run without a race in mind?


  1. I've been lucky not to deal with burnout from running or racing, but I'm pretty picky choosey (and cheap) about my races and racing, and I have had some pretty epic injuries. I worry about my friends and clients who do so much racing etc--but I know that some people love it and don't put pressure on themselves. But those that I know do put pressure on themselves? It makes me nervous. I hope you get that juju back, my dear.

  2. I just went through a huge burnout. after Buffalo Creek, I didn't run for 2 weeks. I was depressed & overwhelmed & really anxious. I'm slowly getting back into fitness (I did 3 days last week, yay!) - so I understand. You just need time for yourself for a little while. You'll get back to it in no time :)

  3. I hear about the fun/great/happy/yay-ness of running and the injuries. This talk of burnout of a great topic since I don't hear about it nearly enough! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I know it will be helpful to those out there.

  4. Oh Gretchen. This post has been my life this year. I feel you 100%. I was so burnt out after the Pittsburgh Marathon and it has taken me the rest of the year - 6 months! - to start digging my way out and enjoying running. I had to quit cold turkey for an entire month to start getting myself back on track.

    I think our eyes just get bigger than our stomachs sometimes. We get all motivated and think we can do all the races, and don't always realize how much time and energy goes into maintaining that schedule. For me, the key is to remind myself that I am not other people, I am me. Just because so and so can handle 20 races a year doesn't mean I can, and that's okay. We each have different circumstances and different life obligations to balance, and we can't try to live someone else's life.

  5. Hmmm... this is an interesting one. Maybe I have gone through a running burnout? But not running (unless I'm injured) has never been an option for me. I guess it just looks different for a while. So, instead of logging 90 mile weeks, I'll bring it down to 50. Or I'll start up a new training program or try some new workouts.

  6. I'm not a runner but I have experienced burnout before. At my most burnt out I had to completely walk away for a few months. And then slowly integrate it back into my life and figure outage balance of when it stopped being fun. For me it was work related so I made a list of everything I did related to my job. And then divided it into things I wanted to do more of and things I wanted to do less of. It was then that I realized a lot of the things that were causing me burnout were things that I had picked up along the way and not really required in my job description. I had to learn (and am still learning) to delegate and it's slowly making a difference. I think the biggest thing to remember is that you don't usually recover from burnout overnight, it's a process!

  7. I'm not sure if it was burnout or "goal paralysis," but after I ran my first marathon, I decided I'd accomplished the ultimate running goal and I deserved to take a break. This turned out to be the worst thing for me. It turned out running was helping me keep all of my stress in check as well as masking my unhealthy eating habits. When I stopped, the pounds piled on.

    That being said - you seem like a fairly well-rounded, healthy person - so it is probably extremely unlikely that you would share the same issues. If it is consistently something you dread, maybe taking a break is what you need. If I were you, I might try drastically reducing my mileage and maybe only running two or three times a week. If it still feels like a chore, maybe try something else.

  8. I sometimes feel like I am missing out, but I definitely pick my races wisely, because I don't want them to be chores and I want to be prepared when I run them. Sometimes life gets in the way and running needs to sit on the sidelines for a bit... and that's totally ok. It'll always be there waiting for you.

  9. very interesting look at it. it makes sense! my slowing down and running less directly coincided with when my life started looking up and i started enjoying my actual life a lot more, so that makes sense for me too. of course, that was... 4 years ago? but it's not like i am still burnt out, i just don't feel that drive or constant need to do more or be faster or better like i did. i mean they are still goals, and maybe one day, but they aren't my #1 anymore and i am totally okay with that. i like to do 1-2 half marathons a year, i think that's my happy number. 0 races makes me feel like a slob, and too many stresses me out. anywya. i hope you find your groove again (not that i hope life becomes more stressful lol) but you'll just find a new balance, you know? like you said, it will always be there.

  10. amen, sista! :) i've been feeling this way for a couple of years - i was never a racer like you but always carved out time to run. now, with crazy work, 25 minute bike commute each way and no friends nearby to run with, i opt for shorter runs when it feels good. i don't try to force it. the season of always running will return when it's time!

  11. I'm so glad you posted this because I know we all go through this at one time or another. It's great that you've been able to see that running filled a gap for you, and now it's just not as needed in your life. That perspective is so valuable because running should be fun and add to your life, not be a stressor. You're right that running will always be there when you're ready for it. I was recently reading an article that suggested some more experienced runners consider being a pacer or helping others in a race, instead of trying to chase down time goals over and over. You liked pacing Dan so much, I wonder if that would be a new, motivating experience for you once you figure out that balance? And ahem, I could use a pacer. ;-)

  12. This is such an important post - especially as burnout happens for so much more than running! There always has to be that balance in what you're doing and it can be hard to find what that balance is!


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