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EVALUATE YOUR RISK FOR STRESS,
BURNOUT OR INJURY
After working with athletes of all levels and noticing common areas of stress, I have
developed an evaluation system to assess the chances of mental burnout or injury. A yes
answer to four or more of the following questions is an indication that you may be at risk
for a prolonged slump, injury, or illness:
Have I trained too long or too hard in a high-pressured situation?
Do I have a progressive loss of enthusiasm, energy, or sense of purpose?
Does my normally comfortable pace feel difficult?
Do I feel locked into a routine?
Do my legs feel heavy or fatigued longer than usual after working out?
Do I dread the thought of training?
Am I becoming more cynical?
Is it difficult to get out of bed in the morning?
Is my appetite below or above normal?
Do I have excessive weight gain or loss?
Do I feel mentally fatigued or irritable?
Do I have physical distress: Minor body pain, headaches, or sleep problems?
Do I have physical or emotional exhaustion?
Am I becoming sullen or withdrawn?
Do I have an angry, negative attitude?
Do I have a diminished belief that I will be successful?
Am I more susceptible to colds, the flu or do I have shortness of breath?
Is my resting heart rate or exercise heart rate higher than usual?
Do I have frequent minor accidents as a result of inattention or stress?
To find out if Personal Coaching sessions by phone would be helpful for you, contact:
JoAnn Dahlkoetter, Ph.D., Author of YOUR PERFORMING EDGE
Telephone: (650) 654-5500
Indeed, loss of pleasure and burnout are major barriers that can prevent you from training
consistently, year round. But you have to wonder, is it even advisable to strive for
maintaining a high level of motivation throughout the year? Attempting to be "psyched
up" and in top form at all times is a sure path to staleness and burnout. Breaks and
variations in the routine are crucial for long-term enjoyment of your sport.
Below are some strategies that may help you build variety into your life and create
renewed interest in your training.
Staying Motivated and Preventing Burnout and Injuries
Create your own seasons: Establish a wide variety of objectives throughout the year
for your training. For instance, you could establish four phases of the year that would
include: base building, strength/speed, peaking/competing, and rest/recovery. Each stage
can bring you up to a higher level of fitness, or, you can divide the year into different
types of training or competing in different sports.
Seek Intrinsic rewards: Develop a sense of internal value and meaning for your training.
Build self-confidence during those times when external rewards are not forthcoming. Begin
to appreciate the positive changes that training brings. Notice the exhilaration created
by your bodys endorphin production and the sense of total health and well-being.
Develop a positive body image from building a stronger physique. Notice the psychological
benefits: stress reduction, improved concentration, and greater self-worth.
Build in variety: Many athletes train with a small, fixed number of workouts (e.g.
Every Wed. is track 800s or mile repeats, every Sunday is the long run or
bike on the same course, at the same pace). You may be starving for change in your
routine. Any kind of variation is bound to create more motivation and interest. Try
changing one element of your training each week. Go to a new scenic trail or park at least
once a week. Alternate hard and easy days rather than working out at the same pace every
day. Try exercising at different times during the day and discover the period when you
have the most energy. Put new spark in your schedule by incorporating different types of
training: interval work, tempo (faster) workouts, fartlek training (variable speeds),
hilly workouts and endurance work. Take a day off and do a cross training with a different
sport. There are endless combinations if you use your imagination.
Take regular breaks: Short, medium, and long-term breaks are all necessary to
maintain your motivation levels. Try taking a one-day break from training each week and
take three days once a month. Then allow a weeks rest after each major phase of your
training (every three months). Take two-four weeks off once per year, or after a major
competition. During that time, try "active rest" by doing a different sport
(e.g. skating, hiking, swimming, cycling, cross-country skiing). Youll get a
tremendous psychological boost and probably not lose any of your fitness level. Your break
time is also a good opportunity to give attention to other aspects of your life. Build a
broad-based lifestyle with a variety of interests. Strive for a balance between work and
fun, social time and personal quiet time, and time to be creative. Do projects and hobbies
at home that give you satisfaction. After your break youll be mentally and
physically rested and performing better than ever.
Go on a sports vacation: Sign up for a summer camp where you can discover new
places to train, learn more about your sport, and connect with new faces, or, plan your
own healthy get-away and go to some place exotic to run, bike, swim, hike, and relax.
While youre on vacation, bring more playfulness into your workouts. Leave your watch
back at the hotel and do a workout just for fun without having to time or score your