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how to avoid burnout during marathon training

How to Avoid Burnout During Marathon Training

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We’ve all been there before. The dread of the alarm going off at 4am. Checking the weather multiple times only to see the heat index is still indeed in the 90s. Sometimes it may manifest in the form of excuses….. “I had a long day, maybe I’ll skip this run today.”

Burnout. It’s a thing.

According to Merriam-Webster, burnout is defined as “exhaustion of physical and mental strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.”1 Now I want to take a moment to clarify. I am not equating overtraining to burnout as they are two very different things. What I want to discuss today is how to continue to love running, and keep your body and mind both strong and healthy, while still clocking all those miles. Below are a few tips that I think may help lead the way.

  1. Have a strong plan…but don’t always stick to it. I would probably put myself in the “Type A” personality category, which means that I’m both organized and competitive. If something is written in my planner for the day, it is going to get done. However, as someone who has also experienced burnout, I have come to love the term “flexibility.” Be flexible with your training plan if you need to. For example, if you wake up one morning and the thought of fitting in a run generates stress or anxiety, return to your planner and reassess your goals for the week. Perhaps you can move this run to a different day or instead of doing the speed work listed on your planner, you do the three mile easy run. You’re still putting in work toward your end goal but you’ve tailored the workout for this particularly stressful day. This leads me to my second point, cross training.
  2. Consider cross training. In April of 2018, accomplished athlete Jordan Hasay had to pull herself out of the Boston Marathon due to an ongoing injury. In a Runner’s World article she discusses the cross training that she participated in while recovering from her injury. She stated that there was still a lot that she could do, from core work to working on her imbalances, hip strength, stretching and flexibility.2 There are always other options to sprinkle into your training plan to mix it up from the monotony of simply pushing forward and clocking more miles. Throw in a swim, go for a bike ride, keep your body guessing what is next.
  3. Understand how your mind works. About a year ago I read Matt Fitzgerald’s book, ”How Bad Do You Want It?: Mastering the Psychology of Mind over Muscle.”3 In the book Matt Fitzgerald weaves different stories of elite athletes and how they strengthen their mental toughness. I found this book to be relatable to all personality types, however there are many other books and articles out there that cover similar material. Each may help give insight to how you approach running and your goals in general. I suggest setting aside some time to really get to know what drives you and how you can best approach your goals.
  4. Be on top of injury prevention. As you increase the number of miles you are logging each week, it’s easy to forget about the importance of stretching and strengthening. Consequently, minor aches and pains can often seemingly develop into full blown injuries overnight. I suggest following up on any new aches and pains. Do not let that intermittent heel pain develop into something that is going to affect your training and consequently your mental game as well. Follow up with your local Athletico physical therapist for a free injury assessment. I suggest always doing this before the start of your training plan to make sure your body is in tip top shape. Click the button below to schedule an appointment.
  5. Allow yourself latitude for some gratitude. At the end of the day, you and you alone are tackling that marathon. Be confident and proud in your training, be accepting of your hiccups along the way, and stay focused on your goals. I’ll leave you with a quote from Matt Fitzgerald’s book: “Gratitude is about letting go of desired outcomes and fully embracing the privilege and process of pursuing goals and dreams. ‘Believe’ refers to the confidence that arises naturally through this process.” Enjoy the process!

If any aches or pains occur along the way, make sure to stop by your nearest Athletico location for a free assessment. Free assessments are available both in-clinic and virtually through our telehealth platform.

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The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

1. “Burnout.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster,
2. Butler, Sarah Lorge, and Eugene. “Jordan Hasay Discusses the Devastating Injury That Forced Her to Withdraw From Chicago.” Runner’s World, 11 Mar. 2019,
3. Matt, Fitzgerald. How Bad Do You Want It? VeloPress, 2016.

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