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How to Avoid Burnout in Triathlon

By Marty Gaal | March 20, 2018, 2:16 p.m. (ET)


It's easy to get down when you're tired, busy and stressed. If you're training for an IRONMAN or other long-distance event, and have other commitments like a job and family, you've probably experienced some version of this. Anytime you're starting to feel down in the dumps, take a moment for self reflection and ask yourself a few questions.
1. Are you sleeping enough? That's the No. 1 solution to fatigue and emotional discord. Your mind and body need time to rest and absorb the life and athletic lessons of the day. Skipping sleep to do more stuff is a slippery slope.
2. Is your nutrition on track? If you're experiencing a chronic lack of calories it's easy to get hangry. If you're relying on quick food or prepared meals, your micronutrients may be off track. Take a look at your daily habits and make sure you're not deficient. A chat with a nutritionist can help. Keep healthy snacks handy. Consider supplementing with multivitamins.
3. Have you taken on too much? If you're president of the PTA and have a giant responsibility at work, your brain is firing on all cylinders for extended periods of time. Throw in some serious endurance racing goals and a few home related emergencies, and you hit the stress overload. Too much stress will generally make us anxious and unhappy. Take time to prioritize your life. Back off on what you need to, until you feel less unhappy about life in general.
Remember that for 99.9 percent of us, endurance sports are a recreational activity. The definition of recreation is "activity done for enjoyment when one is not working." Stick that on your wall and think about it next time you get grumpy about having to do a four-hour workout from 4 to 8 a.m. because you want to go watch your kid’s baseball game at 9.
There is a time to suffer in training, and a time not to. Knowing the difference is a matter of experience and perspective. If you start to hate on things, you've gone over the edge.
While doing well and winning in triathlon and other endurance sports can be great challenges and provide life goals, they are ultimately games. Games are supposed to be fun. Sometimes you will need to take a break from the game and focus on winning in life.
Keep it fun; keep it balanced. Stay aware of your overall mental state. Keeping your life manageable will help you maintain a generally positive attitude, which has a great impact on your eventual race day performance.
Marty Gaal, NSCA CSCS, is a USA Triathlon Certified Coach. He has been working with endurance athletes since 2002 and is the co-founder of One Step Beyond.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.