An article about workplace burnout was passed along to me recently. Unsurprisingly, if you read the title of this post, I was very easily able to apply the signs of work place burnout to athletic burnout. The elements basically lined right up.
And that’s probably pretty obvious to most people but what really caught my attention was this:
“Quite honestly in America we glorify stress,” Dr. Maslach said. “And that’s another thing that leads people to be quiet and shut up about some of the stressors they’re facing because they don’t want to be viewed about not doing their best.”
I’ll get back to that quote in a few but, like… yes. That is #truth. While I’ve had fleeting thoughts about this, that quote really hit home for how I need to approach many, many parts of training with the athletes I work with.
Are you burned out?
Do you feel emotionally drained? Mental game feeling off? How’s your sleep? Are you always sick?
Are you having relationship issues?
Just not feeling yourself?
Answers to these questions don’t always mean you’re burned out but they can certainly point in that direction. Evaluating how you feel based on these questions can tell you a lot about what’s going on in your life and how it’s effecting you.
Another quote that hit me hard:
If anyone complains about it, she said, they’re automatically labeled a wimp.
I want to be very clear here. If you are working with me, I hope to never treat you this way. I strive to have as much empathy as possible for the athletes I work with because every one has different life circumstances and stressors. Some things stress some people and not others. I work hard to understand that about everyone.
Not being able to complete workouts, not feeling like doing anything, and feeling totally blah about something you’re usually super passionate about is a sign. Pay attention to the signs. Tell someone you’re noticing a sign.
*Breaks into song… “I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes, I saw the sign…”*
We all pay attention to road signs (well, most people), so why not personal signs?
How to handle the burn out
Step 1: Tell me, or someone… anyone. Well, not anyone. Tell your coach, or a friend, or an advisor. Tell someone who helps you through your goals. They need to know. It’s not worth it to keep all of that bottled up inside.
Get it out so you can figure out how to approach it.
Step 2: Make a change. The first change is usually a break or a reduced training load so the initial stress of “getting it all done”, when you’re not getting any of it done, can be lifted off your shoulders.
Maybe you have a goal race coming up so taking a break isn’t an option you want to use. Ok, let’s change-up the workouts. Let’s put emphasis on one sports or on one type of workout. Maybe we move some of the typical schedule around. Freshening the schedule up can do wonders for some athletes.
Step 3: Talk about the long-term goals and how this feeling of burnout fits in with them. Have you been pushing too hard? Are you trying to fit in too much with all of your regular life stress? May you’re building too fast and getting ahead of yourself? Are you repressing your immune system? Trying to get past an injury? Ask a lot of questions and apply them to the process of helping you meet your goals for the future.
If you want to stay happy and healthy for the future, you must think about these things. Even if you want to do one triathlon, one time and be done. I’m pretty sure you’ll do some other athletic endeavor in the future, you want to keep your mind and body in a place that allows you to work toward those future goals.
It’s not always about pushing through
When in doubt, BACK OFF. It’s not cool to always be burying yourself. There is a reason the vast majority of Olympians are in 4-8 year cycles to qualify for the games (after all the earlier years of fitness building too). Good results take time. Most of that time should be spent not crushing yourself.
Put the ego away. Shelve it. The best athletes might have an instagram account full of epic-stressful workouts but what you don’t see are the countless hours of non-epic stuff they do. For the 2 minutes of miserably awesome pain they show you on a social media post they are spending hundreds and hundreds of hours preparing their body for that.
When you see people pushing through, that is the fruits of their labor, not the glorification of their workout stress. You don’t need to be always crushing it to be doing your best. Again, not crushing it all the time = actually applying proper stress.
This doesn’t make you weak or lame. It makes you smart. In the end it makes you faster.
If you notice some of the signs above, it doesn’t mean you should just keep pushing through and creating more stress. Burnout may likely be on the horizon.
Be consistent about evaluating your emotions and mood the same way you are about your workouts.
If you think you’re experiencing burnout, you very well might be. Talk to me about it, let’s figure it out so you can still be successful and reach your goals in the future.
Working to avoid burnout, today is a good day.
I am officially through 3 months of Pulmonary Embolism recovery exercise and working toward my 4th month. While my general trajectory for recovery has been positive the journey through this process has been rough on me.
I don’t want to ever come off as complaining about all of this too. I am grateful that I’m not in the hospital and that I am out exercising. My goal here is to explain my situation for my own sanity and so others can reference from it if they are experiencing anything like me. Read More
Due to a whole pile of factors I have gotten away from one of my primary goals for 2018, to write more. Starting today, the 1st of May, I’m aiming to change that. I’m setting a goal for myself to write a post like this at the beginning of every month: what I plan to accomplish for the month.
I want to do this to keep myself accountable, because I like checking things off a list, and because this might inspire someone else to get off their butt and get things accomplished too. Read More
Exercise is selfish
I hate hearing this phrase, “exercise is selfish”. I hear it in podcasts, from athletes, from athlete’s significant others, on Facebook… ugh, too many places. What is wrong with people. Does everyone need a guilt complex about doing something nice for themselves?
Maintaining your mental and physical health is not selfish. Working to make yourself a better person is not selfish. Spending time on YOU is not selfish. Stop letting people shame you because you enjoy to swim, bike, or run (or do whatever other sports and exercise) as part of your daily and weekly routine.
Exercise is healthy
In most forms, exercise is really, really good for you. Exercise has been shown to help reduce stress, anxiety, blood pressure, and a host of other bad things. It can help to revitalize a person who needs a healthier addiction.
I come from a family with plenty of addiction issues (and who doesn’t?). Exercise has saved me from going down the wrong path more times than I can count. It’s such a healthy release compared to so many other alternatives.
The goal of performing exercise is to be a better, healthier person. People exercise to lose weight, to rehab an injury, and to literally live longer. Exercise helps you live longer, people. But, no, you should totally not exercise because you just want to die earlier in life 😉
It’s more than just physical. Your mental health and stability is vital for you to focus as a normal human being on a day-to-day basis. By exercising you’re able to better balance your hormones and gain different perspectives you wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to find.
Being mentally healthy and fit is essential to being a good parent, partner, spouse, or friend. You can’t continue giving helpful advice and being that shoulder to cry on if you’re too mentally beat down. Exercising helps people work through that fog. Once you gain your person fulfillment you’re able to give more back.
How many times have you heard or read some one say they “need to go for a run to clear their head”? That’s not selfish, it’s helpful and smart!
Exercise is good for you.
Yes it is. Running is healthy. Swimming is healthy. Lifting weights is healthy. Everyone can over do-it from time to time but the general idea is that moving heavy things and forcing your body into challenging aerobic situations is, over-all, a good thing. After all, you can’t grow if you don’t do anything to expand.
And expanding is what exercise is all about. Expanding your horizons on what you’re capable of. Learn to grow as a person by doing something that challenges you physically. How can any of that be selfish?
Exercise is so good for you that it’s prescribed by doctors. Exercise is part of school curriculum!
But its selfish to run a marathon or train for an Ironman.
No it’s not. It’s not selfish to do the things you enjoy, hopefully with a heap of moderation at times. But maybe moderation isn’t your thing and you have different priorities than others, so what. Be your own person.
Just because you have kids doesn’t mean your life is on hold too. I’ve coached so many people over the years with incredibly demanding jobs, who have families and tons of responsibilities in life. They still train for triathlons and more. By being able to express themselves through exercise they’re able to be better people for those around them. Plus, everyone needs a release from the stresses of daily life.
Taking care of yourself is not selfish.
It’s smart to make sure you have some “me” time. If you give all of your time to others how can you possibly have anything left to give to yourself? You’re just going to run out of steam if you keep giving your energy away to others without doing anything to replenish.
So, no, exercise is not selfish. Can someone make it selfish? Well of course. People can figure out how to make anything selfish, that doesn’t make the act is inherently selfish. Besides, just tell people THEY are being selfish for not wanting you to exercise!
At the end of the day it’s a balance.
You have only so much to give to all of the things that require your attention in life. If you can find a way to see to all your things and still exercise then you’re good to go. Sometimes you won’t get to everything so you can still exercise, that’s OK too! No one gets everything done all the time. That’s life.
So go exercise and make today a good day 🙂
Living with Pulmonary Embolisms is not easy
I’ve just completed weeks 4 and 5 of exercise coming back from my unprovoked bilateral pulmonary embolisms. The first few weeks were the worst but as more time passes living with pulmonary embolisms the more I feel I’m gaining control over my lungs and my life again. I’ve gotten to the point now where I feel comfortable running a little bit too!
Being able to run, even for just :30 seconds at a time, has been a wonderful feeling. And by wonderful I mean terrible, yet totally wonderful. The act of running has not been enjoyable. Lots of huffing and puffing, lots of flem, and lots of chest tightness. BUT I am doing a little bit of running!
I should note that I’m 5 weeks into exercise and, about, 2 months post-PE discovery and hospitalization! Woot, woot!
Lessons… so many lessons
Living with pulmonary embolisms has taught (or re-taught) me a number of really good lessons. Chief among these lessons is to slow the heck down and enjoy things AND to truly take life one day at a time. You need to plan for the future and moving fast is fun, but all of the things I wouldn’t take the time for, before my PEs, they are totally happening now.
One of the biggest things I always wanted to do while out running and riding is to take more pictures. I never wanted to stop though. I’ve seen so many cool things I would have loved to capture and share but I could never get myself to hold back for a second and enjoy the sight I was beholding. My morning walk routine has forced me into slowing down and really seeing all sorts of things I would have never seen before.
I’ve made a ton of new friends on my walks lately. Not so much in the form of human beings but I’ve still made a ton of friends 😉 (see image).
Talking life one day at a time, for me, has meant shooting fun video. I mean, I think it’s fun to shoot the video, maybe it’s not always fun to watch me walk during it though! Regardless, when I go out the door everything morning, it’s a brand new start for me and I’m so excited to find a way to make it memorable by shooting video of something cool (or just me enjoying the ability to walk again!).
Laying in the hospital with my chest tube in, I just kept think about all the fitness I’d ever worked for being gone forever. Now that I’m out and a solid month into a walking routine, I feel like every day I throw my sneakers on is a new chance to get everything back again. It’s going to take me forever but every day I head out the door I’m going to keep starting again. I figure one of these new starts will see me flying down the road eventually… I hope! Until then I am happy with what I can do right now.
And for now I can walk and do some easy running (jogging perhaps?). I’m working my way back toward the pool and one of these days I’ll see how riding outside will go. I need to make sure I don’t get too light-headed first. I’m not interested in falling off a bike… ever again.
I’m hoping my weekly videos will inspire someone to keep starting fresh every day just the way I am. The main purpose of these videos is for me to see my own progress and to work through my frustration of not being able to execute my passion for endurance sports, and general exercise. If I can help someone else along the way though, super awesome. We’re all in this together after all.
So thank you for following along. And if this is the first post you’re seeing I suggest starting back here to learn about where I started from with my PEs.
Today is a good day!
Repeat your workouts
Again and again and again. If I have learned anything from coaching over the last decade it is that repeat workouts breed better results. That sounds a little bit crazy so let’s break it down.
1. Allow your body to develop a routine
As an athlete you need to develop muscular patterns. A runner needs to develop the pattern in which their foot strikes the ground, a swimmer with their arm entering the water, and a cyclist with their pedal stroke (among many others). If you don’t do a fair amount of similar work, you’re going to have a lot of trouble developing those muscular patterns. That familiar routine is needed for your body to continually develop.
The more you do the same thing, or something similar, the more your body can adapt, become more efficient, and you can develop more.
2. A routine helps create a path of least resistance
No one has perfect form. Some elites have incredible economy in their form, but no one is perfect. By repeating the same movements in your muscular routine you allow your body to slowly find a path of least resistance through your poor tendencies.
If you’re a runner with a bad heal strike you’re either going to run yourself into the ground (ie. get hurt), or with some coaching and repetitiveness you’re slowly going to allow your body to work into a path of least resistance.
For most, this is not as simple as just running but the concept itself is that simple. Repeat good motions over and over again. Good motions tend to become better motions over time.
If you’re a swimmer with bad shoulder pain during one part of your pull, the more you work that part of the pull, the more your body will slowly find a more efficient technique.
When your body does the same thing over and over again it’s going to naturally want to do less work, expend less energy, and just be more efficient. This, obviously, means you need to do something quite a bit too. Running or swimming 2 times each week isn’t going to allow for enough work for these actions to all fall into place.
3. Endurance racing is boring
Let’s face it, ticking away those miles of your marathon or even your 5k can feel like forever. You might get jolts of energy jockeying for position but most athletes are just trying to work through the event. Not every mile is fun.
As such, not every mile of training should be fun. You need to train your mind to be bored and just let your body do the work sometimes. Repeat works, when you feel like you’re in autopilot, are a fantastic way to work through the boredom.
If you can’t handle boring workouts you probably aren’t willing to handle what it takes to do really well in a race. Not everyone is looking to win but if you are you need to be ok with this.
4. Repeat workouts breed familiarity
You’re already stressed about enough things in life, we don’t always need to add extra stress to a workout. Repeat workouts bread familiarity and, again, allow you to go through the motions a little more. Sometimes going through the motions means being on “autopilot”, sometimes it means being able to focus more.
When you do the same sets again and again, you’re able to walk into those situations with the knowledge of what should generally happen. You have an idea of pacing and feel, and how badly the workout might hurt. When you repeat workouts you can mostly know what to expect (note: this isn’t about outcomes, it’s about process).
5. Excellent benchmarks
Just like every swim, bike or run test you’ve ever done, repeat workouts help set benchmarks for different durations and intensities. Most athlete and coaches use the same types of power tests to learn an athletes FTP. You might use 4 x 4 minutes, 20 minutes, or 1 hour but you’re not going to just do that once and forget it. You’ll repeat that work multiple times.
Repeat workouts can (for good or bad depending on the athlete) be seen as tests. Not all tests have to come with excruciating effort though. Running a 45 minute base run every Monday, after logging heavy miles on the weekend, is a great repeat workout to see how your legs are holding up from the weekend. And you probably didn’t even think about it that way before.
So be ok with your repeat workouts. The best coaches love to give them over and over again. The best athletes love to do them (or will gladly tolerate them) because they know the workouts just… well, they work.
So workout, rinse, repeat.
Today is a good day.
It is one month out of the hospital for me since my Pulmonary Embolism.
*does a little dance and gets winded*
It’s going to be a loooooong time before I feel like my old self again. But I’m making progress every day. Or at least I think I’m making progress every day. Read More
PE Workout recap: 3 weeks of walking
And just like that I’ve made it to week three in my recovery from bilateral pulmonary embolisms. While I’m super pumped to be able to walk every morning I’m finding I’m getting less and less satisfaction from every successive walk. More and more I just want to go run. I think it’s becoming a bit more obvious in this PE workout recap.
I’m working really hard to not complain but the frustration is definitely building. Walking is nice but as my fitness rebuilds it’s not the most satisfying outlet for me.
Shooting video and trying to keep things light-hearted while I’m out and about is helping though. Every week I get a tiny bit better and shooting and editing my videos too. If you want to check out some of my other videos you can find them all here on Youtube.
So here is my week 3 workout recap while coming back from pulmonary embolisms!
Today is a good day.
You have to believe you can manage anything.
Without realizing it I’ve been working on managing my life better for years now. I had a sort of epiphany while out walking yesterday morning and came to the realization that life is not about focusing on what you can control, it’s about learning to manage what you can and can not control.
For years I’ve been preaching to athletes about focusing on what they could control. I talk about controlling your attitude, your pacing, your nutrition, and what you’re internalizing. I talk about directing energy toward the things you can actually control, not the things you can’t control. Until now I had not realized how limiting this can be. Read More
Two weeks post-PE never felt so good.
Are you ready to laugh and cry and fall in love all over again? This is not the video for that 😉 This is my recap after two consecutive weeks of “workouts” post-bilateral PEs. You can find my first two videos here on Youtube. A PE is a funny thing blocking your use of blood and oxygen. I’m seeing tiny progress in my heart rate but it’s clearly going to be a loooong time before I’m back to normal (when was I ever normal?).
Being able to “workout” again has been huge for me though. While I’m still only walking I have moved from walking on the beach to walking on the pavement this week. I also started walking about 5 minutes of stairs at the end of each walk. Stairs have sucked. But I did it.
I’m taking it one day as a time.
And I HATE that phrase. It’s my go-to answer for how things are going. It’s very true but very annoying at this point. I don’t really have a choice. Well, I do have a choice between terrible blood clots and heart issues OR being healthy. I’m absolutely choosing to be healthy.
Anyway, enjoy my week two recap. It’s got new music, new views, and new-me being silly.
Today is a good day.