Saturday, March 29, 2014

Burnout and Balance

Hello, light!

A friend recently texted me to say he wanted to share my blog with a friend, but when he got there...


I haven't blogged this year. How did that happen?

First off, I got another promotion at work. When I was promoted last fall, I was told there was a possibility of another, larger promotion down the road. I found out a couple of months ago that the dream had become reality. When I found out, I almost fell to my knees I was so excited. That's saying a lot for someone as non-expressive like me who usually reacts with "Oh, that's great." (note the period, not an exclamation point). The new role is an exciting new step for me and my mind is filled with ideas to bring to it.

Second, I think it's fair to assume that I manage my personal time pretty poorly. An average day of my non-work time looks like this:

I seriously doubt you would want to pin this.

So yeah...I'm kind of joking but kind of not. It's true that I spend time researching a "magical" time management technique that will change my life. I'd be better off just spending that time actually doing something.

My Quest for Balance (and what balance means to me)

The word "balance" gets thrown out a lot in advice articles, self-help books, and blog posts. It's a little vague and probably means different things to different people. I can only speak to what it means to me and why I want it.

Everyday, I carry around a mental list of everything I could or should be doing - go to the dry cleaners, respond to that work email, try that healthy muffin recipe, organize my closet to be worthy of Pinterest so B doesn't complain that it's about to explode, call that friend back so she knows I still care, respond to the 50 LinkedIn requests I have, Swiffer the floors, do something with my rough looking nails for goodness sake....I could go all day with this. I might as well add end world hunger to the list. Today with cell phones and 24/7 connectivity, I carry my work to-dos and personal to-dos with me constantly. That's a lot of mental clutter. The personal to-dos are mostly first world problems, but they weigh on me.

To me, finding balance means I find a way to devote some time to "The List" but then letting it go at some point each day. Savor a cup of coffee. Meet a friend for drinks. Take a stroll downtown on a nice day. Relax and watch American Idol or a movie (am I the only person in America who hasn't seen Frozen?). Read a magazine (I need that one - I have no clue what's in style these days). Write a freakin blog post for once. I already do a lot of these things, but I don't truly enjoy them because "The List" is on the back of my mind. It's time to let "The List" go.

Long Run Burnout

Also, let's face it. Part of the reason I don't have a lot of downtime is...running.

Don't freak out.

I still love running, and hopefully always will. However, my relationship with running is evolving.

Remember when you first started running? The first few minutes, the first mile,the first 5K, the first 5 miles, etc. provides a feeling of accomplishment that is exhilarating. You can't believe you just did this. It's amazing! Then other runners fawn all over you and tell you how amazing you are for doing it (as they should!).

Whoa. I'm not really as obsessed with attention as that would make me sound.

It's addicting. Each new goal feels so great, so shiny and new, that you want to go to the next goal, and the next. You eat, sleep, breathe and talk running. Your friends think it's all you talk about. They don't understand how amazing it is!

But've run your first 5K and several more. You've run your first 10K. Your first double-digit run. Your first half marathon. It's still fun and it's exciting to shoot for new PRs...but it's not shiny and new anymore.

And that's where I am. It won't be shiny and new again until I train for a full marathon (tentatively planning for next year). I still enjoy running. I still enjoy seeing and supporting running friends. I still get excited for races and the possibility of a PR. I feel myself getting faster. My easy/moderate pace is 11:50-12:00. Last year it was 12:15-12:30. All great stuff.

Training for two half marathons back-to-back has been mentally tough. As soon as I finished Kiawah, I jumped right back into training after the holidays for the Knoxville half . That means that since October, most of my Saturdays have included a long run. And long run weekends for me involve being too sore, tired, and hobbling to do fun and productive things, and wanting to eat everything in sight. I'm officially burned out on long runs.

In the past, I trained for 5Ks, then a half marathon, then back to 5Ks. Mentally, mixing things up kept me excited, engaged, and energized in my running. Doing the same long runs for almost 6 months has left me physically tired and mentally burned out.

All of this has led me to the realization that it's time for my relationship with running to evolve. I need running to be a part of my life, not consume my life. I need variety in my training to stay energized and engaged.

Winter Running Blues

Not helping was the fact that Tennessee has had an unusually cold winter. I've lived in Knoxville for 9 years, and this is the coldest winter I've experienced by far. Here in Tennessee, we complain any day it's below 40 degrees, and we can't handle anything below freezing. Throughout all of this, I had several memorable runs.

The Calhoun's 10 Miler in January, also known as "That time I ran 10 miles up and down mountains in 20 degrees and wind blasting in my face, ending with me lashing out at a vehicle that almost hit me at the finish line." True story.

The Strawberry Plains 10K in February, also known as "How I learned that volunteering outside before races is hard and cold and that I'm a terrible parking attendant." I have a whole new respect for race volunteers. Despite that and the fact I didn't have time to fuel and hydrate before the race, I PRed. Go figure.

The 5K to support Volunteer Ministry Center (a local organization supporting the homeless and poor in our community) earlier this month, also known as "That time I remembered how fun 5Ks are and met Cuonzo Martin."

We also had a great time at a St. Patrick's Day social run organized by the Knoxville Track Club socialites (a social running group that meets every Wednesday - everyone's welcome to come).

How to Deal with Running Burnout

If you're feeling a little burned out on running like me, here are some tips I'm trying.

  • Take a break. I'm definitely doing this after tomorrow's half marathon. Taking breaks is crucial for me to feel rested and re-energized.
  • Try a new goal. Last year, when I switched between short distance running and half marathon training, I didn't get bored or burned out. Mixing it up helped me stay engaged and excited in my running. I never ran into burnout until I did two back-to-back half marathon programs.
  • Let the goals go for a little while. Last year, when I unsuccessfully tried to reach my goal of a 30 minute 5K, I stopped enjoying running. I couldn't run without the time pressure weighing on me. I finally let the goal go for a little while. I ran several times without my watch, and learned to enjoy running again.
  • Cross train. I think it's physically and mentally good for us to mix up our activity. In addition to running, I do bootcamp, yoga, and most recently, barre classes (which I LOVE). Moving in different ways and having variety during the week is more fun than JUST running all week. Friends of mine vary their activity by adding biking and training for triathlons. 

What's Next?

Tomorrow, this chapter of my journey ends with the Knoxville Covenant Health Half Marathon. Despite my burnout in training, I'm excited about the race. I love running on my home course and love all of the local support and excitement. This will be my third half marathon, old hat for a seasoned vet like me. :)

I have four goals for tomorrow (in this order):

  1. Pace myself in the beginning. I have a problem with this, as illustrated at Kiawah.
  2. Don't get sick and miserable at the end of the race, like I did at Kiawah. Hopefully following #1 will help prevent this.
  3. Shoot for a PR. My current PR (at Kiawah), is 2:39.
  4. If I can't get a PR, shoot to beat last year's time at Knoxville of 2:45. Knoxville is MUCH hillier than Kiawah.
However, I'm even more excited for B!! He's running his FIRST full marathon tomorrow! After doing many long runs (up to 20 miles!) over the last few months, he's feeling more burned out than me. However, I think he's excited for his race. I can't wait to cheer him on as he conquers his new goal. 

I'll also be interested to hear his take on running his first full marathon - something I'm considering for next year. He's shooting for a "conservative pace" (for him) of 9 minute miles. This should put him finishing somewhere around 4 hours. As I've told him, however, any time is a PR. Like me, he'll really need to pace himself. Just finishing is an honor!

That's it! Wish us luck tomorrow! I'll share the details on my Facebook,  Twitter, and Instagram pages tomorrow, and hope to write a recap soon (really!).

Have you experienced running burnout? If so, how did you overcome it?


I was not compensated by any of the above organizations for this post, nor are they affiliated with this blog. I am simply sharing my honest opinions and experiences. The views expressed in this article are solely my own. Also, I'm not a health or fitness professional of any kind. See my  Terms and Conditions page. Background for title image via Flickr

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