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Avoiding Burnout For Runners: How To Stay Healthy and Motivated

May 19th, 2023 | 5 min. read

Avoiding Burnout For Runners: How To Stay Healthy and Motivated
Elise Barron

Elise Barron

Licensed Physical Therapist, PT, DPT // EW Motion Therapy Homewood

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Running is an excellent way to stay fit and healthy, but even the most dedicated runners can experience burnout. Burnout occurs when a person loses motivation and feels exhausted by their running routine. Fortunately, there are several ways runners can avoid burnout, maintain their motivation, and prioritize their physical and mental health. We love helping runners do this at EW Motion Therapy, and even if you decide that our services do not fit your needs, you can still read on for our discussion of why burnout is common for runners and what they can do to switch up their routines. 


Download our Run Q&A here!


Why is burnout common for runners?

Burnout is common for runners, particularly those who train frequently and intensely. Burnout can occur when a runner becomes mentally and physically exhausted from their running routine, loses motivation, and experiences a decline in performance. This can happen when a runner trains too hard or too often without allowing enough time for recovery or variety. Burnout can also occur when a runner becomes too fixated on achieving specific goals and loses sight of the joy and fun of running. However, with proper care and attention to the body and mind, burnout can be prevented or overcome.


How can runners avoid physical and mental burnout? 


Take care of your body

The first step in avoiding burnout is taking care of your body. This includes getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and staying hydrated. Running stresses your body, so giving it the nutrients it needs to recover is essential. Ensure you eat plenty of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, and drink water before, during, and after your runs.


Another way to take care of your body is to cross-train. Cross-training involves doing other forms of exercise that complement your running routine, which helps prevent injuries and keeps your body strong and flexible. Here are some of the best cross-training practices for runners:


  1. Strength training: Strength training is an excellent way for runners to improve their fitness and prevent injuries. Focusing on exercises that target the muscles used in running, such as squats, lunges, and calf raises, can help to increase power and speed, improve posture, and reduce the risk of injuries.
  2. Swimming: Swimming is an excellent low-impact workout that can provide full-body exercise while improving cardiovascular fitness. Swimming can be an effective way for runners to build endurance, strength, and flexibility without putting stress on their joints.
  3. Cycling: Cycling is another low-impact workout that can improve cardiovascular fitness and leg strength, so cycling can be an effective cross-training option for runners.
  4. Yoga: Yoga is an excellent way for runners to improve their flexibility, balance, and core strength, which can help to prevent injuries and improve performance. Yoga can also help runners to reduce stress, improve mental clarity, and promote relaxation.
  5. Pilates: Pilates is a low-impact workout that improves core strength and flexibility. Pilates can help to improve balance and stability, which can help to prevent injuries and improve performance.
  6. Rowing: Rowing is an excellent full-body workout that can help to improve cardiovascular fitness, strength, and endurance. Rowing can be an effective cross-training option for runners, as it provides a low-impact workout that targets the muscles used in running.


Incorporating these exercises into your training program can help to prevent injuries, improve overall fitness, and provide a mental break from running. Choosing activities you enjoy that complement your running routine is vital to help you stay motivated and engaged in your training.


It's also important to listen to your body and avoid pushing yourself too hard. Like any other athlete, runners can be at risk of overtraining if they fail to allow enough time for recovery. Overtraining occurs when a runner exceeds their body's ability to adapt to the stress of their training, resulting in decreased performance and an increased risk of injury. Runners who train excessively or too intensely without adequate rest and recovery are at the most significant risk of overtraining. Overtraining can have various symptoms, including persistent fatigue, decreased performance, increased risk of injuries, and changes in mood or behavior. Runners should allow for adequate rest and recovery to avoid overtraining. It's also important to pay attention to your body's signals and adjust your training as needed. For example, if you feel persistent fatigue or soreness, consider taking a break or reducing your training volume.


Take care of your mind

In addition to taking care of your body, it's crucial to take care of your mind. Running can be a mentally challenging sport, and it's easy to lose motivation if you're not in the right headspace. Here are a few tips to keep your mind fresh and engaged:


  1. Set realistic goals. Having specific, achievable goals can help keep you motivated and focused. Whether running a certain distance or time or completing a race, having something to work towards can help you stay motivated.
  2. Mix up your routine. Running the same route at the same daily pace can get boring quickly. Try varying your routes, adding speed work or hill repeats, or running with a group or partner to keep things interesting.
  3. Celebrate your progress. Take time to acknowledge your accomplishments and celebrate your progress. Whether it's hitting a new distance or achieving a personal best, credit yourself for the hard work you've put in.
  4. Take a break. It's essential to give yourself rest days and take breaks from running if you need them. Take a day off or do a different exercise for a week. Taking a break can help prevent burnout and keep you excited about running.


How else can runners avoid stress?

Avoiding burnout as a runner is about caring for your body and mind. Listen to your body, cross-train, and set realistic goals to keep yourself engaged and motivated. Celebrate your progress and take breaks when needed to prevent burnout and keep running a fun and fulfilling activity. Additionally, runners can make a few different lifestyle choices to avoid unnecessary stress and maintain their motivation. 


Losing motivation at different points is typical for anyone, especially for runners constantly chasing their next PR. Runners who care for their physical and mental health can adequately prevent burnout before it begins and continue to pursue their goals. We care about our runners’ goals at EW Motion Therapy, whether you are training for a race or just trying to keep moving forward. If you are curious about what our Run program could do for you, click the button below to download our self-assessment and see if our program fits your needs.

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