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Mental Training Fatigue

5 Minute Read

Training fatigue creeps up when we least expect it (and least want it to). 

It robs us of our spark, motivation, and enjoyment for running. It transforms our sport into…. mere exercise (*shutters*). While it’s natural for motivation to ebb and flow, understanding and addressing training fatigue is crucial to keep our passion for running strong. In this article, we’ll delve into what training fatigue is, how it happens, and actionable steps to prevent and overcome it.

What is Training Fatigue?

For our purpose here, we’ll define training fatigue as a mental/emotional state, categorized by diminished excitement and persistent apathy for running. This can certainly be accompanied by physical fatigue, but not always.

The runs that once brought joy now kind of feel like a chore. Importantly, we don't think (opinion) this feels like dread. It’s not that we suddenly hate the workouts, but more so just lost the spark. This lack of enthusiasm is killer. 

The Causes

Monotony: Repeating the same workouts (same paces, same distances, same routes, etc.) without variation can lead to mental fatigue and burnout.

Lack of Progress: Not seeing improvement despite consistent effort can be disheartening.

External Stress: Life’s challenges outside of training can spill over, affecting our mindset. 2:00 am crying baby? Yea. Likely to affect our mental state. 

Overtraining: Pushing slightly too hard for a long period of time without adequate rest. This can be hard to notice, as many don’t feel sore or tired. Just mentally burnt out.

What it Really Feels Like

Training fatigue manifests as a subtle shift in our relationship with running:

Decreased Motivation: Every run takes a bit more effort to get out the door.

Reduced Enjoyment: Runs feel less fulfilling, and the joy diminishes.

Mental Exhaustion: The mental effort required to start and complete a run increases.

Sense of Stagnation: Feeling stuck in a plateau, with little to no progress.

Stop It Before It Happens

Introduce Variety: Mix up your workouts. Incorporate interval training, trail runs, or cross-training to keep things interesting.

Set Some New, Short-Term Goals: Break the monotony by setting short-term, achievable goals. These can reignite your sense of purpose and progress.

Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to signs of overtraining. Prolonged fatigue, difficulty sleeping, sluggishness, are common signs. Get adequate rest and understand that sometimes we need to do less, in order to do more.

Mental Breaks: Sometimes, a short break from running can rejuvenate your passion. Don’t hesitate to take a few days off to reset mentally. If you try taking 2 weeks off, you’ll probably be itchin’ to get back at it.

Fix It After It Happens

Reevaluate Your Routine: Assess your current training plan and identify areas that need change. Do you have long runs? Speed work? Recovery runs? Is there strength training? Sometimes small tweaks can make a big difference.

Incorporate Fun Runs: Schedule runs that are purely for enjoyment, with no focus on pace or distance. Put on some music, and rediscover the simple pleasure of running.

Find Some Buddies: Connect with fellow runners or join a running group. The shared experience and camaraderie can boost motivation.

Celebrate Small Wins: Acknowledge and celebrate every achievement, no matter how small. Positive reinforcement can reignite your enthusiasm.

Mindfulness Practices: Engage in mindfulness or meditation to manage external stress and maintain a positive mindset.

Aight Wrap It Up

Training fatigue is a natural part of any training cycle. Understanding the early signs allows us to take proactive steps to prevent and overcome it.

But ultimately, it's all natural and part of the process. So we can pay attention to how we feel and adjust accordingly, but we can also just embrace the ebb and flow of motivation, and know that with time, it'll come back quick.

And with that in mind, we can continue working to build a routine we love, and train consistently. With consistency, we build passion.

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