My take on over-training and burnout (Part 2)

In part one of this post, I talk about the experiences I’ve had with burnout and the warning signs I have to identify to mitigate the risk of entering into the ‘burnout zone’.  

In this post, I’m going to cover a few other things that I’ve found contribute to over-training, and ultimately, burnout.

Being over-obsessed with training

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I think it’s a good thing to be a little obsessed. Even some of the elite athletes I know get obsessive. I think it’s part of wanting to be a better version of yourself and wanting to improve. Question is whether the obsession is having a negative impact on you physically, mentally and emotionally.

Being obsessive can sometimes work against us, and so it’s up to ourselves, and the team around us, to know when to tone it down. My trainers can see when I start overdoing things. I’ll be injured or flat as a pancake, still keen to do the training session, but my trainers will pull me back and tell me to go light or not train at all. Recognising obsessive behaviour in one’s self is sometimes hard to do.

When I feel myself getting antsy, anxious, impatient and I’m trying to work at 100% when it’s physically risky, then I know that I’m being over-obsessive and I should probably ease off till I feel fully refreshed and ready to train hard again. Knowing when to slow down requires a lot of understanding about yourself and how you operate. It comes with practice and the ability to be mindful.

The more aware you become of what your body is doing, and the more you keep track of your progress and training, the better you become at knowing when to go hard and when to ease up. However, I will add that it can be easy to confuse the need to slow down with just being lazy. If you genuinely need to ease off (i.e. you know that you will have a crap training session because you’re so stuffed), then ease off. But if you know you have more in the tank, then train and unleash everything you have left.

Knowing when to push through

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There’s a fine line between knowing when to stop and knowing when to push through. For example, it wouldn’t be smart to train with an injury unless you want to prolong that injury. But in this sport, I believe making the uncomfortable comfortable is part of developing your resistance and mental stamina.

I’m not saying you have to go 100% if you’ve got a broken leg (although there are ways to train around this injury). What I’m saying is, if you’re tired and sore (i.e. you have DOMS and it was a hard day at work / school) it can actually be a good thing for you to mentally push through and see how far you can go. After all, fighting isn’t tiddly-winks and the more you can handle the brutal, and mentally challenging, side of this sport the better.

There’s a really cool video about this guy named David Goggins. He’s a US Navy SEAL, and in his video he talks about testing his mental limits while training for triathlons, endurance sports and ultra runs.

At first I thought this guy was a bit crazy, but the more I watched his video, the more I understood his logic. Afterwards I realised that you’re only as good, as strong and as capable as your mind – meaning if you’re mentally strong nothing is impossible.

So the thing to take away here is there’s a time to ease off and there’s a time to push through, to see what you’re made of and to continually test the boundaries of your mental parameters.

Trial and error

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I’ve said it before, everyone is different and so what works for one person may not work for you. The only way I’ve discovered what works for me is by trial and error.

I try lots of things to figure out the right ‘recipe’. When I try something new, if it’s successful it will become an ingredient to that ‘recipe’. The way I see it, no one knows how you operate better than yourself so it only makes sense to figure out what works best for you by trying lots of things.  

Make no mistake though, seeking advice from an expert is important and shouldn’t be ignored. For instance, your nutritionist, trainers and those who support your development have a load of valuable knowledge and they’re there to help you. Don’t get carried away with thinking you have all the answers (like I have in the past) and ignore advice that can take you further. If you find a solution that works for you, discuss it with them so they know what the ‘recipe’ is.

Conclusion

There are a lot of things I’ve found that contribute to over-training and burnout. Knowing yourself is a key part in mitigating the risks of reaching that point.

What I will add here is that if you’re suffering a lot from a physical point of view, for instance if you sustain major injury or you end up suffering from amenorrhoea as a result of over-training, then you should definitely seek medical advice.

I hope this helps, and if you have any thoughts or suggestions on what you do to mitigate over-training and burnout, feel free to share in the comment box below.

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