Feeling knackered every day? Don’t feel like running right now? You might be going through ‘runners’ burnout’. These are the signs to watch out for.
Hands up if recently, your running regimen has gone out of the window. Mine certainly has. After years of waking up to run before work, I’ve barely been able to drag myself out of bed at 7.30am to go for a walk, let alone an 8K canter. I’m tired. I’m hungry. I’m kind of… meh about training. I think I’ve got runners’ burnout.
General burnout tends to be the end result of months of stress and overwork, and the running equivalent is kind of the same. Sure, we might not need to be signed off from work or find that we can’t get out of bed at all, but the cause is similar: prioritising rise and grind over rest and relaxation.
I’ve been running for years, and normally, training naturally ebbs and flows. You go through periods when you just don’t have time to run, or you go on holiday where swimming and sightseeing take priority. But over the past couple of years, many of us haven’t had a proper stint off from work or been able to get away – and so have maintained our usual training habits. I’ve swung from training plan to training plan, feeling less enthusiastic and more fatigued each month.
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In fact, last week was the first time I’ve run pain-free for a long time; I headed out for a 10-minute jog after doing a full workout. That, surely, should have run alarm-bells. It’s not normal to spend 18 months in pain, or to need such a lengthy warm-up.
I spent 2020 running almost every day; 2021 was the year that races returned – I trained intensely, only for my first race to get cancelled the week before. The following week, I started my London Marathon training. And a month after that was done, I started training for my next event – which, again, got cancelled. And since then, I’ve kept on running without any real energy or interest.
That might be an extreme example, but you don’t have to be a marathoner to experience burnout. If you did Couch to 5K, then continued running and pushing towards a new goal without a break, you might be feeling drained – especially if you’re training in the heat.
6 signs of runners’ burnout
When physical therapist Dr Victoria Sekely shared a guide to running burnout on Instagram earlier this week, she stressed the importance of having an off-season. “Most runners not only require an off-season but actually perform better after taking one,” she wrote.
6 signs of runners’ burnout, according to Dr Sekely
- Feeling really tired all the time
- Feeling super hungry sometimes, not hungry at all other times
- Sleeping more than usual
- Being constantly injured
- Feeling incredibly stressed over small things
- Dreading going on a run
How to come back from burnout
“People can experience burnout in different ways… it just depends on the individual,” Dr Sekelytells Stylist. “Generally, if someone is finding that they’re not getting excited to run, they’re really tired all the time, they’re really struggling with their training – whether they’re training for a race or just general running – I would recommend that they take some time off.”
Dr Sekely even admits that she has a running burnout every year: “Because I’m so used to it, I just listen to my body – whether that’s taking a week, two weeks or just a couple of days off.
“How long you need to take away from running really depends on the person and what works for them; there’s no one right answer.”
It might be a case of taking a few days, assessing and then taking a few more days or weeks away from running. The most important thing is to recognise the burnout red flags and to act on them before you get injured or damage your relationship with a hobby that usually gives you pleasure.
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