Ultrarunning: Overcoming Burn Out

November 8, 2011

This article is part of Endurance Planet’s ultrarunning article series. If you have questions, comments or feedback about “Overcoming Burn Out”, please leave it below in the comments section…

You know the saying that begins “Too much of a good thing…” Running is a beneficial form of exercise and a widely popular sport. But just like any good thing, one can have or do too much of it. When this happens, the runner may start feeling burned out.

This is a not uncommon obstacle that some very active runners face in the practice of their favorite sport. Ultrarunners are more likely to hit this slump because of the rigorous nature of the distance running events they participate in. A physical injury given the right medical attention will heal but a mental breakdown can be a more complicated problem.

Sources of stress

Burn out is the sure result of improper or overextended training but this isn’t necessarily the only cause. Cramming too many ultramarathons in a year may just as likely use up your physical and mental reserves. If you don’t leave enough space to recover from the last race and tune up for the next one, then don’t be too surprised if you’re feeling less motivated down the line.

There’s the stress of training and the stress of the event itself. But remember that there are other activities that surround the race which can just as likely be a source of stress, like the travelling involved for instance. It would be ideal if you can simply dedicate your life to running and have a support system that allows this but that’s not the case for most average ultrarunners. There are jobs to go to and friends and family to take care of. Without the proper management and balance, all that pressure can pile up.

Back off

Not being in the mood to run is one of the signs of burn out. Sometimes the stress comes from other aspects of your life and maybe going for a short training run might actually relieve it. But in the case where overtraining is the cause of the lack of motivation, forcing yourself to run is probably just going to make it worse. Knowing the difference between the two is naturally something only you can determine for yourself. The important thing is to learn when to back off and press the reset button.

Mix up the training

Rigidness and monotony is a great way to kill enthusiasm. You don’t have to follow the same route every time you run nor do you have to do it at the exact same time every week. Remember that there are cross training options available that can also serve to build up strength and endurance. If you’re feeling the slump then maybe changing some of the details in your routine or doing a different type of training entirely might liven you up again.

Add a social element

Running doesn’t have to be a purely solitary endeavor. Sometimes just running along with a like-minded enthusiast is all it takes to get you out of the dumps. There’s nothing wrong with joining a club, association or simply setting up an informal group. When you feel you’re losing your interest in running then maybe seeing it still burning strong in others could bring back your own spirit.


Do you have questions about how to overcome burn out, or what you’ve read so far? Do you have any ultrarunning pointers of your own to add? Please leave your feedback, comments and questions below, and we promise we’ll respond.

Comments (2)

  • Girlly ultrarunner says:

    I used to be fast. Burnout led to lack of training which led to poor performances, which led to discouragement, leading to further burnout. I need help. In my heart I am still an ultrarunner. I just don’t know how to get going again. Suggestions?

  • […] every training cycle I get kind of burned out at this point in the game. This article, this article, and this article all speak about runners’ burnout and basically recommend the same […]

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