Training Burnout – Who Is at Risk?

By Jiri Kaloc

Training burnout often comes with overtraining which is mostly a problem for professional athletes or the most competitive amateurs. But cyclists can develop burnout independent of overtraining which means that almost everyone could be faced with this issue. Let’s take a look at who is most at risk and should pay most attention to burnout.

When we talk about burnout, we often think only of cyclists training above 20 hours per week. These athletes are certainly at a high risk of overtraining but most of them never experience burnout. On the other hand, there are time-crunched cyclists that only ride 3x per week and develop a serious case of burnout. The thing is, burnout often has more to do with our psychology and motivation than physiology. This is why such a wide variety of cyclists can be at an increased risk. Here are the most common types.

Cyclists with unclear goals

Training is hard. Every cyclist who tried following a training plan and putting in the work knows that you often have to push yourself and dig deep. In those hard moments, it’s essential to have a clear goal, a vision of what you’re training for. If you don’t have that, training sessions can quickly become a chore and you burn out.

Those fuelled by external stuff

If you set a clear goal that is personally meaningful to you or you simply love the process of training, you are well protected against burnout. If you rely on external validation or goals that are outside of your control, you could be in trouble.

It’s easy to maintain motivation when losing weight, everyone cheers you on and congratulates when you succeed. But maintaining your new weight doesn’t have an exciting progress bar and nobody gives you a high five every month you don’t fail. If weight loss was the only motivation for cycling, you’re at a high risk for training burnout. Similarly, getting motivation from winning races and collecting medals works great in the short term. But it’s hard to sustain this long-term because everyone eventually comes up short.

Cyclists that only train alone

One of the great advantages of cycling as a sport is that you can go ride any time, you don’t have to wait for team practice or worry about your partner cancelling. The downside of this is that training solo increases the chance of burnout. Including other people not only creates some accountability because you don’t want to let them down by quitting, but also adds social connection. People are much more likely to continue with every type of habit when it involves a community of like-minded people.

Cycling training
A cycling community keeps you accountable, helps you grow as a cyclist, and gives cycling a whole other level of meaning. © redsnapper / Alamy / Alamy / Profimedia

Self-coached athletes

It seems like being your own coach is easy, there are plenty of resources and training plans online to make due. It’s true that a lot of people can get very fit without any help from a coach. But making decisions only based only on generic advice and not consulting with an expert increases your chances of making a mistake. This includes not enough recovery, making sessions repetitive and monotonous, or planning way too much volume are easy mistakes to make and they can contribute to burnout.

People who resist change

Having a regular schedule is practical and allows you to fit more training into your life, it can feel comforting. But if your routine is too rigid, it could be a cause of burnout. Variety helps athletes stay engaged with training. A change in volume or intensity is necessary to keep progressing. It can be beneficial to try new sports and experiment with different approaches. Adaptability can be a great resource for preventing burnout.