Training Burnout – What Is It?

By Jiri Kaloc

We all have days when it feels more appealing to stay in than go out and ride. What if you can’t push past that feeling with a little self-talk or a friend calling you up? It might be a sign of training burnout. Let’s take a closer look at what it is.

What is training burnout?

Training burnout is much more serious than simple fatigue, and it can feel worse than overtraining if you let it develop. When you’re burnt out, you continually feel run down and nothing seems to make the fatigue go away. You lose interest and cycling slips way down your list of priorities. It’s a serious problem that affects athletes on all levels. It’s not something that only professional cyclists or seasoned amateurs deal with. Athletes can experience burnout while training as little as 3 times per week.

What causes burnout?

Most cases of burnout can be traced back to the ambition or even obsession of an athlete. There has to be a fire in you if you’re to burn out. Not managing that fire is where the problem starts. It leads athletes to overtrain, under-recover or both. It could also result in an overly rigid training routine that is mentally draining. If you consistently fail to get adequate rest, whether physical or mental, you are on the path to burnout.

A group of cyclists
Training burnout is a serious matter affecting not only professionals. © Profimedia

Symptoms of training burnout

Burnout can impact both your physical and mental health. The physical effects are very similar to overtraining. You will experience lethargy, decreased performance, slower recovery, trouble sleeping, and low heart rate variability among other symptoms. We will go into detail about these in the next article. Psychological symptoms are perhaps less known but can be crucial for identifying burnout. Here are some of the most typical ones.

  • Fearing: You get nervous and uneasy when the time for your ride is getting close. The thought of going for a ride fills you with dread rather than excitement.
  • Delaying: You’re trying to find reasons to delay the start of your ride workout. For example, you may prioritize organizing your gear, cleaning the bike or even doing household chores over actually going for a ride. A common example is also obsessing about the weather and the route to the point that you cancel or postpone your ride when it’s not necessary.
  • Wanting to quit: The feeling that you don’t really want to go for a ride doesn’t disappear even when you’re on your bike and riding. You must repeatedly talk yourself into continuing and not giving up mid-ride.
  • Giving up: It may be appropriate to give up sometimes, when you simply can’t keep up with a group on a climb or when you reach your limit during a race. But if you notice you tend to give up pre-emptively because you don’t even feel like trying, that’s a clear sign.

These symptoms can be hard to recognise if you don’t feel like you are at risk for burnout. In the next article, we will take a look at ways to spot burnout and differentiate it from overtraining, whether the symptoms show up as physical or psychological.