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Training Burnout – How to Spot It

By Jiri Kaloc

Should you force yourself out of the door even if you really don’t feel like going for a ride? Or should you acknowledge the feeling and take a day off of training? It can be hard to differentiate fatigue from overtraining and burnout. Let’s go over the differences between these so you know how to make the right decision.

Fatigue is easy to recognise, taking a rest day or reducing the intensity of training for a few sessions usually makes it go away. Your energy and enthusiasm for training come back quickly. With burnout and overtraining, it’s a bit trickier and takes longer to resolve.

Burnout versus overtraining

Training burnout and overtraining have a lot in common but there are some important differences. The symptoms of overtraining are more physical and measurable. They affect your whole life, not just cycling. Here are the typical signs of overtraining.

  • Diminished acute performance
  • Stalled training progress
  • Low heart rate variability
  • High perceived exertion relative to actual power or pace
  • Prone to illness and injury
  • Lethargy
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Diminished sex drive
  • Emotional volatility

Athletes suffering from training burnout can experience many of the same symptoms of overtraining but they are almost always accompanied by issues in motivation. In fact, a cyclist can suffer from burnout without being overtrained. Sometimes, training burnout doesn’t even show up in power or heart rate data. Here are some of those typical symptoms of burnout.

  • Being afraid of your upcoming training sessions
  • Trying to delay starting a training session
  • Wanting to quit during the whole training session
  • Giving up on training before even giving it a try

Another difference is how quickly they can be reversed. When it comes to overtraining, it’s necessary to rest and focus exclusively on recovery for many weeks or months. With training burnout, rest and time away from monotonous training are also important but you can start seeing results sooner.

Ask yourself the following questions

If something doesn’t feel right about your training and you’re unsure whether you’re struggling with fatigue, overtraining or burnout, you can try asking yourself the following questions.

  • When is the last time I looked forward to training?
  • Am I often procrastinating when it’s time to train?
  • Do I have issues finishing planned training sessions?
  • Do I feel happy I went for a ride or happy that it’s finally over?

If you answered yes to the first four questions, you are likely struggling with training burnout. A positive answer to the next four questions is pointing more to overtraining.

  • Have I been feeling unusually exhausted or sore lately?
  • Has there been a decrease in my performance lately?
  • Am I experiencing trouble sleeping and loss of appetite?
  • Do rides I’ve done in the past feel harder now?

Now that you can identify training burnout, we will take a look at who is most at risk for it in the next article.

Next up in Training Burnout series