There is no one to blame, but myself. What can I say… I started 2010 off with a bang, running faster, farther, and more intense than ever. Unfortunately, this enthusiasm didn’t translate to swimming and cycling got left on the back burner. Accommodating these other sports only led to burn out. Burn out or not, the progress is inspiring!
I can break the chart into four groups (from left to right): a) Fall 2009, weeks 41 through 49, b) Holiday period, weeks 49 through 1, and c) Winter, weeks 1 through 6, and d) burn out, weeks 7 & 8.
- Period A was the conclusion of the 2009 season, including the Santa Barbara Duathlon.
- Period B was when I decided to start workout toward running a marathon, working it into my triathlon training plan
- Period C was realizing that the 2010 season is not far away, cycling and swimming had been neglected, so I really cranked up the workouts.
- Period D suffering from a cold and extreme burn out, workouts were missed and motivation went out the door.
The nail in the coffin for my burn out was during week 5 but began in week 4. Training really picked throughout January until week four, when bricks were introduced. At the end of week four I not only completed a 23-mile cycling and swimming brick, but I also attend a class at the gym called Ripped, which gave me an additional strength workout. Then the following day I was supposed to run 10 miles… I barely made three! This was the start to burn out and I did tell my trainer and we made a slight change to the plan.
Week 5 was supposed to be a recovery week. For the most part if was, but week 5 ended with a mock triathlon consisting of a 500 yd pool swim, a 18-mile cycle and a painful 5k run. That did it, burn out was inevitable. As much as I tried to push on at this point, I couldn’t do it. It was at this time, I started missing workouts (weeks 7 & 8), started feeling demotivated and lost perspective. Here are some common symptoms of burn out:
- Depression, loss of motivation
- Decreased appetite
- Extreme body fatigue, prolonged muscle soreness
- Frequent sickness due to weak immune system
- Loss of Sleep
Burn out is the body’s way of telling you that you pushed too hard for too long. Training is an art and getting the balance right is a huge part of long-term success. You can read more on Dealing With Overtraining and burn out, an article by Active.com.
The most ridiculous part is that I never gave myself time to recover from that first killer workout at the end of week four, despite having a few days of light recover during the first part of week 5. No wonder the mock triathlon at the end of week 5 was so painful! I saw it coming everytime I looked at the charts above, but I was in denial. My trainer kept pushing me to go harder; no pain, no gain. Peer pressure wanted me to keep up, and I lost grasp of the reasons for doing this.
What would I have done differently? Taken week 5 off completely until my body was ready to continue and rework the training plan to accommodate regular cycling workouts, more regular swimming workouts and follow the 3 week build, one week recovery model to the teeth.
The sad part is that burn out led to my decision to not compete in the UCSB Triathlon (post: Don’t Forget the Journey).
Since it has been two weeks since my last full week of training, I am starting to feel more motivated again. A huge part of me is very nervous about going back to training as hard as I did previously. Is it really worth it? I really want to train because I enjoy it, not because I have an event coming up and want to kick ass at it. It is the people, the memories, the experience, and the joy that I want from this journey, not the most number of bibs.
Going forward, I will take another week of recovery, doing light swim, bike, and running workouts as I feel the body can accommodate them. I will also continue to build out my detailed triathlon training dashboard, including nutrition charts, goals, and various metrics that will help alleviate burn out. Above all, recognize that this isn’t a race… triathlons are plentiful and there is always next year. Smart training leads to fun, joyful success.