It’s not uncommon for an athlete, or a physically active person, to experience burnout.  Burnout can be described as “…An enduring experience of emotional and physical exhaustion, reduced sense of accomplishment, and devaluation of sport participation as a consequence of prolonged chronic stress.” (Gustafsson, Henrik, 2007, Di-VA portal).   Sport, as described, could apply to team sports, individual sports, or training.  It’s imperative that we are aware of additional external stressors in our life, as they weigh heavily on us if we are physically active as well.

As referenced to in last week’s article, there are different types of stressors, and exercise can be a great form of “eustress” that enables us to strive and complete fitness goals.  However, we need to stay in touch with ourselves and recognize when our bodies need a bit more time to recuperate, as well as exercise a bit of self-compassion if we are unable to meet our exercise goals.

As per Gustafsson, H. (2007), “There appears to be a relationship between overtraining syndrome and burnout… [with] burnout [being] the most severe outcome on the training fatigue continuum.”  This affirms the fact that overtraining can cause symptoms of burnout, especially when mixed with significant, negative external stressors.  So be careful in how much you train, respond to your body, and gain adequate rest accordingly.

Overtraining, as mentioned before, can also come from an intrinsic desire to train, which “… made athletes ignore signs of maladaptation” (Gustafsson, H. 2007).  This “maladaptation” could potentially be a continuation of a rigorous training regime despite physical/emotional signs of burnout.  Gustafsson (2007) also ascertains that “Performance-based self esteem is a ‘driving force’ in the burnout process” as well as “… a unidimensional identity” being seen as “critical” factors in regards to burnout.  To summarize, give your body, and mind, a break.  Focusing on a singular part of your being/basing your feelings of self-worth completely on your performance in the gym/on the court/in the water can lead to a dramatic decrease in physical performance and mental well-being.

So, to summarize, burnout is a very prevalent and serious concept that can affect a wide variety of athletes.  It is related to maladaptive behaviors, negative emotional well-being, and decreased physical performance, as well a physical health.  It is important to give ourselves the adequate rest we need, as well as be compassionate to ourselves when we don’t quite meet our physical fitness goals.  It is important that we use physical fitness as a motivator, as long as we temper it with proper training regimens, and understand that our entire identity is not based on who we are athletically.

(*For the purposes of this article, we have drawn points from the doctoral thesis: “Burnout in competitive and elite athletes” by Gustafsson, Henrik (2007). Source:  http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2%3A135387&dswid=_e_15vL)