There was a time, not too long ago, when all you could think about was the “WOD”. Excited, and filled with anticipation, you’d check the gym’s website multiple times a day, and you simply couldn’t wait to leave work and get to the gym. But then something happened. You noticed you’re not making the kind of progress you used to; you begin dreading going to the gym; you feel stagnant. Shit, if you didn’t feel so damn guilty about loosing your gains, you’d skip a few workouts all together.
As the Sport of Fitness grows in popularity, there’s a growing pressure to train and perform with more and more intensity. But there’s a downside to that perceived pressure: burnout.
Too much of a good thing, too often, can cause you to dread the very thing you enjoy most. Think about what it would be like to eat your favorite food every day, at every meal, for an entire year. I guarantee you’d grow sick of it. And it can happen with your training. (But let’s hope not.)
In some circles, to suggest skipping a workout is tantamount to sacrilege. But as a coach concerned with my athlete’s health and wellbeing, I’m always watchful for the signs that one of my athletes has hit the wall in their training.
What does burnout look like? Burnout can manifest itself in many ways: Loss of interest, loss of appetite, loss of sleep, depression, and mental and physical fatigue. Burnout is different for everyone. As a general rule, if you find that you are simply going through the motions, or feel lackluster about your training, it may be time to take a break.
There’s a reason professional athletes take a break at the end of their season. After such an intense period of preparation and competition, athletes need time to decompress. The off-season gives an athlete the time they need to recover and recharge. Many of us in the sport of CrossFit push ourselves like professional athletes but without the off-season. We train like athletes, we should rest like athletes as well.
When it comes to your performance, your physical and mental health go hand-in-hand. So whether your head simply isn’t in the game, or your body has been trying to tell you to back off a bit, the negative impact of both can be cumulative.
The important thing to remember is that this is an opportunity, not a set back. Your eyes are now open to what’s going on. And now that you’re aware, you can begin taking steps to turn things around.
So what do you do if you’re experiencing a case of burnout? Here are some suggestions to help get you over the hump and reignite your passion for training again.
- Change things up a bit. Work on a new skill; start a strength program; focus on technique. Talk to your coach about switching up your programming to accentuate your strengths or improve your weaknesses.
- Reassess your goals. This is a great time to take a serious look at your goals to ensure each is still in line with your wants and needs. And if not, set some new ones, and then plan out how you’re going to achieve them.
- Try taking part in a local or regional competition. Competitions can be just the thing to reignite your inner firebreather. Just remember, these are supposed to be fun, so relax and enjoy the opportunity in the challenge.
- Supplement your training schedule with another activity you enjoy. Go for a run, take a hike, shoot some basketball, or join a softball league. Take a day off from training and do something you enjoy outside the gym.
- Take a break. Relax for a few days–maybe even a week. It doesn’t have to be forever. Just take some time to recharge your batteries.
The intent of your individual training schedule is to train often enough to reach your fitness goals, but not so often that you burn out or injure yourself. Athletes should understand that the greater the training intensity and effort, the greater the need for rest and relaxation.
If you didn’t begin your training with a plan for your training program, now might be a good time to start. Having a healthy, well-rounded perspective on your training is key, and it makes more sense than wasting all the time you’ve put into your training to burnout.
So, if you’re feeling a little cooked around the edges, relax. A break may be just the thing you need to begin crushing those WODs again.