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How to Avoid Marathon Training Burnout


Do you know how to avoid marathon training burnout? As a coach, I see it all the time, and as a runner, I work hard to avoid it for myself! How do you balance the rigors of training to avoid burnout? 

How to Avoid Marathon Training Burnout

Do you know how to avoid marathon training burnout? Find out @suzlyfe

Burnout (no, not the drug related kind). Being “OVER IT.” Ennui. Tired. Checked out. Never wanting to see those M&^%$  F&^%$#@+ shoes ever again! It seems that burnout is one of the common battle wounds and pride scars of marathon training, along with blisters, black toenails, chafing, 9 PM bed times, wearing compression loudly and proudly, and going to the bathroom in the bushes. 

Found me some runners!

Found me some runners!

Also, I am not talking about the need to just take a vacation from running–I’m talking about not wanting any part of it as a result of training!

One of my dust-your-shoulders-off proud moments is the fact that I have not suffered from burnout during or after any of marathons. Yes, I do revel in the respite following the big event, and that isn’t to say that I skip out the door like a rabbit on speed for every run, or that every run is great. But it does mean that I never question what I am doing, look forward to, or why I am out there. And I wanted to pass on some of my strategy for how I accomplish this, so that if you are going into marathon training battle, you can be excited, rather than peeing in your pants nervous!

suz pose victory phoenix marathon

I’m elite in my mind

Strategies to Avoid Marathon Training Burnout

First off, I want to say right out of the gate that much of the following will parallel my Marathon Training with a Chronic Illness post, but this applies the principles in a slightly different direction.

1) YOUR System

Everyone wants to know what marathon training plan you are using. Higdon? Hansen? Black Magic? (PS, lemme know if you find out how that one works). Well, as you know, I like to do things my own way. And sometimes, sure that means that you learn the hard way, but I think that finding the right training plan is like finding the right pair of jeans. Educate, look to what you know has worked for others, but, ultimately, this is YOUR TRAINING. Don’t be afraid to try new things, either–maybe yoga is great for you, or maybe you need more pilates or weight room. 

#1,2,3, 4 go very much hand in hand, so  stick with me.

2) Documentation

Write it down, in doubt or not. Document your journey. During my first training (and definitely still, but to a lesser extent), I wrote down my diet and what I did, and at what times, on the days before and of my long runs, and every time that I had a twinge or did a foam roll. If I had a big day of walking//I sat a lot but I went to yoga after/I ate a giant burger the night before and if I had cramps during the next day’s run/I napped the day before… I wrote it down. Before long, patterns emerge.

I'm ingenious.

I’m ingenious.

3)  Assessment

Learn to Listen. I started to figure out that I needed to plan on a nap on certain days, that as long as I fueled and hydrated the day before, I didn’t have to be so careful about exactly what I ate the day before. Hey, I even had a Crabbies the night before Twin Cities, and that is now a tradition! Also, there is a huge difference between Discomfort (means you are pushing your boundaries) and Pain (STOP).

4) Flexibility (And Documentation)

Schedule in Pencil, Record in Pen. So, put together that documentation and assessment, combine it with YOUR system, and realize that even so, you are going to have to be flexible. I plan out my week, but I write it down in pencil, and record what gets done in pen. That way, I never feel like I have failed myself. Just that I am going to find a way to figure it out later in the week. Illness, injury, and life are part of the journey–and sometimes get in the way.

5) Incentive

Dangle the Carrot. That doesn’t just mean new shoes or whatever. I love the flexible structure of training–the fact that you get to look forward to a morning yoga session on Wednesdays with your favorite teacher, or your Saturday run with your ladies (we know I wouldn’t have gotten to Phoenix without them!).

Mask on during post long run ritual.

Mask on during post long run ritual.

I love my skin rituals after my long run, and my bikini waxes. It is a chance to be selfish and spoil myself, to feel good!

6) Fueling



You won’t look forward to a run if you don’t have energy, or if you spend the entire time expecting a blow out. Marathon training is long for a reason–to prep every part of your body! Talk to friends, research, find what works!

7) Support Crew

alex massage team challenge

He is my minion. Like Despicable Me but less prone to wearing overalls.

You can’t do it without them. Leg and feet rubs, understanding that 9 PM is totally acceptable for bed time, or that you are RUNGRY and they can NOT be late to lunch! They help you laugh, take off your sports bras when they are so sweaty they are like shrink wrap, help talk you from the ledge, and celebrate your successes. 

8) Balance, Structure, and Variety

Don’t Overdo It. I train conservatively. That doesn’t mean that I don’t improve. I knocked nearly 15 minutes off my time between Twin Cities and Phoenix and this was my mindset going into it!. And I don’t run more than 3 times a week. Better yet? I look forward to my long runs because I don’t think of them as just another run. My 8 milers during the week help my mental fortitude and give me an hour out there without being caput. Then I add in cross training like spinning that protects my joints but allows me to still get work done! Not every day is about work, too. Vary intensities and volumes.

9) Sustainability

Goals that Sustain YOU and that YOU can Sustain! Similar to #8 and like going out too fast at the start, don’t train at a level that you can’t sustain. Alternatively, pick a goal that excites you and keeps you going–get a little nervous, but don’t psych yourself out!

suzlyfe chicago spring running

10) Past, Present and Future

Learn from the Past, Live in the Present, and Look Beyond the Race into the Future.

Don’t live in the past, or the future. Live in the here and now–with the body and the conditions that you are currently working with. But use the lessons of the past (thanks documentation!) to inform choices, and work towards your goals of the future. And most importantly, look beyond the race itself–rest of course, but have a plan so that you don’t just fall apart!

Complete marathon training without burning out--here's how! #marathontraining #runchat Click To Tweet

Fool Proof? Of course not! Nothing in life is fool proof! But we are all fools, and running a marathon is proof of this. So find a way to enjoy the journey. It will be one that will test you but will also reward you–though not always in the ways that you might expect!

Have you experience marathon/race burnout? What contributed to it?

Advice! Dole it out!

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