Dealing with End-of-Season Burnout, and How to Remedy It
By Head Coach Kendra Wenzel
If you’ve been racing consistently since early spring, it’s very likely that you’re reaching some kind of burnout now, especially if you don’t have major late-season goals or don’t plan to race cyclocross this fall. Burnout symptoms include a disinterest in training, disinterest in making the drives to races, slacking on scheduled intervals, rushing workouts or just generally feeling tired, heavy and unfocused. Burnout may arrive in its mental form before its physical one. But either is valid and normal, and you are probably not alone. Even if you’ve had a quality mid-season break, it may be difficult to beat back burnout at this time. The August heat usually contributes to the malaise as well.
If you recognize burnout in your training, now is the time to talk to your coach about switching up the training to keep things fresh. Unless you still have major end-of-season goals, now is the time to try that track class or do the mountain bike ride your non-racing friends have been talking about. If you don’t feel like riding but have the energy for alternative activities, this is the time to tackle more demanding outings like backpacking or hiking trips that are a little too much to do during a rest period. But if you are dragging both physically and mentally, it might be time for your end-of-season break.
If you still have fun races to do, such as a number of criteriums or other short racing, you should be able to keep your mid-week training to a minimum, include a few more days off than usual, and still enjoy the local racing on the weekends. The fitness you’ve built over the summer should be enough to carry you though these races. We call this the “Just Riding” phase of training, where you are able to follow more whims in your training without worry about repercussions in your performance later, because you’ll eventually be heading into an end-of-season rest or transition period. This is a good time to take off the heart rate or power meter or simply tape over the screen so that you aren’t worried about the information. It’s important during this time to keep your coach informed of what you’ve done (or not done) so that he or she can take that into consideration when building your next plan period.
Is it Burnout or Overtraining? The line here leans more toward the mental side for burnout. By this time of year you may have already competed in your goal events and might have reached a level of accomplishment to rest upon or a level of frustration that nags. Or, it simply may have been a long season and you are itching for variety. But if you experience items such as raised resting heart rate, loss of appetite, insomnia (not just from the heat), and a lower threshold, you should talk to your coach about backing off more seriously. These are all signs commonly tied to overtraining, which can be more difficult to recover from if not addressed quickly.
Burnt from racing but not training? Now is the time to focus on skills that don’t require as much intensity. Take a cornering or descending clinic, for instance, or look into cyclocross. If you’re mainly a cyclist, you might hit the pool and swim a few laps both for cross training and to keep cool. If you’re a runner, get on the bike.
It may take only a week to get over your burnout, but most likely it will take several weeks or even an entire month of less structured activity. The feelings of burnout are experienced by all at some time, and your coach should be able to help you work through it to come out of the experience ready for your next period of training or rest feeling even more pumped up about what’s to come.
Head Coach Kendra Wenzel has been racing and coaching for a combined 24 years and enjoys helping competitive road cyclists, mountain bikers, track racers, and cyclocrossers of all levels.