Owen Anderson September 05, 2013 TWEET COMMENTS 0

Preventing Burnout - Page 5

Research on Burnout


One of the take-home lessons for runners appears to be that cognitive, emotional, and psychological approaches to running can have a profound impact on performances and risk of burnout. When competitions become threats to self-worth, the risks of excessive stress and burnout increase. When races are viewed as exciting challenges and opportunities for time improvements and mastery, the risk of burnout is reduced, and the chance of performing at a higher level is increased.

When runners believe that their actions such as training sessions will lead to desired outcomes such as reasonable and specific performance times, their motivation increases, and they have the best chance of performing at a top level. In contrast, striving constantly to achieve perfection and belittling small improvements increases the likelihood of developing debilitating burnout.

The ultimate bottom line is that motivational profile matters a great deal, and in some cases it may matter more than the training carried out, the recovery between workouts, and the manner in which a runner eats. Poor motivational profiles can make a fit runner feel unfit and can wrap a runner in a coat of lethargy and withdrawal that makes quality training and the attainment of goals impossible. A bad motivational setup makes decently conducted workouts seem like failures and lets self-worth depend on every vagary of training and performance. Runners seem to operate best when they use a motivational profile that includes task-goal orientation, a mastery climate, and a break from perfectionism. This profile is forward seeking and lets runners take satisfaction in even small gains in workout quality and competitive performance. It also gives an individual runner a break, letting him or her have enough pressure-free time to achieve long term goals. It never, ever links self-worth with the time on the race clock or relative finishing position in a competition.

Find more information about preventing burnout and other strategies to run your best in Running Science, available in bookstores everywhere or online at www.HumanKinetics.com.


Owen Anderson, PhD, has been a regular contributor to Runner’s World, Shape, Men’s Health, Peak Performance, National Geographic Adventure, and Sports Injury Bulletin. He is also a race and running camp director, CEO of Lansing Moves the World and founder of Lansing Sports Management.


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