Here is Jen’s question:
I’m curious. Do you, as an experienced runner, ever get the feeling that you just have to keep training — even over the winter months? Do you feel like there always has to be a “goal”, or a “purpose” for a run? My next race is going to be Eugene, and technically training would start about 16 weeks out…but I’ve been running hard all month (literally 3 days after Seattle, I was running and felt like I had to start training again). Is this how you feel after a race? Like, what’s next? How can I improve? Better get started right away…yada, yada, yada. Now I’m reading about overall performance decreasing due to overtraining and burnout…YIKES. Really? What do you think?
Burnout is most definitely a real issue. It comes up at every level from beginners to the most elite athletes. It may show up in different ways, but we see it at all experience levels. With beginners, burn-out may happen after just a few weeks of moderate training. And at the other end of the spectrum elite athletes have some of the worst problems, because they train so intensely. Many times by the end of their seasons — when they are preparing for championship events — they are so burned out that their performances start to suffer. This is reportedly one of the reasons why Lance Armstrong used to skip most other races except the Tour de France — because he wanted to be avoid the physical and mental toll of the long professional bike racing season. (He took a lot of heat for this — by the way — as many people said that his ability to singularly focus on the Tour gave him an advantage over other professionals who had to race all season to make their living, but let’s get back to burnout.) Burnout certainly happens.