Are you Bored or Burnt Out? Reigniting your Running Motivation
When it comes to running (or anything in life, but let’s stick to what we know), understanding the difference between boredom and burnout is important if you’re feeling motivationally challenged. Sometimes these terms are used incorrectly. There are times when all of us get a little disinterested in what we’re doing, and times when we need an extended break.
This summer, I found myself needing both. I was in a bit of a running rut after flopping my Grandma’s Marathon in June. Running felt like a chore. Looming life changes were making me feel anxious, and I wasn’t sure if I need a break, or should go all in to rekindle my passion. There was a bunch of personal stuff going on, and the physical manifestation of it came out in my general indifference towards running… the one constant that always pulled me out of whatever obnoxiously concocted funk I put myself in.
If you feel, or have ever felt like this, maybe you’re bored, or burnt out on what many call the ultimate stress reliever. Here are a couple of ideas to help you though it.
Defining Boredom and Burnout
feeling weary because one is unoccupied or lacks interest in one’s current activity.
Being bored is a general disinterest in what you’re doing. Maybe the activity has become too easy, or there simply isn’t incentive enough to continue. Perhaps it’s time to move on, or maybe you need to find something to reignite your interest in said activity.
By contrast, burn-out is far more serious. One sobering definition I found described it as;
emotional and physical exhaustion resulting from a combination of exposure to environmental and internal stressors and inadequate coping and adaptive skills.
This suggests that stress isn’t the problem, rather it is caused by an inability to deal with it in healthy ways. I know some runners who do multiple marathons a year, and appear (at least externally) to have great coping mechanism (vacations, massages, yoga, coaching, cross-training, etc).
Identifying whether you’re bored or burnt out is step one. The next step is to get over it, or manage it.
How to Overcome Boredom
I rarely allow myself time to be bored. There is always another distraction to occupy my time. This isn’t helpful, because you can’t understand what’s really going on. According to Leslie Becker-Phelps Ph.D., she advocates for “sitting” with your boredom for a bit.
While “sitting” with your boredom, you will have a chance to take a closer look at it, and consider: Are you really just unmotivated?, or is there something else going on?
I’m a firm believer that everything is connected. Maybe you’ve lost interest in the routine of putting your shoes on and heading out for a run because of something at work or in an relationship. Reflect and identify what’s really going on.
When I find myself just bored (and not something larger at play) it’s a sign I need to do something different. There have been times when I’ve been really into a Podcast, and my run becomes more about the excitement of getting time to listen than the actual run. Sometimes it’s about taking your mind off of running itself.
Something else I do is simply mixing the routine. Maybe this means finding a new running route (trying to make pictures with your Garmin), connecting with a new running group, or signing up for a random race that you’ve never heard of. Run errands (literally), or make up games while you run. Play around with these things and see if any of it sparks your interest.
How to Overcome Burnout
Overcoming burnout isn’t quite as simple. It’s more complicated than running with a new group of friends. That said, here are a few ideas.
Clarify expectations for yourself, and set realistic goals. If you’re pushing yourself beyond your limits, you’re fast-tracking a trip to Burnout Hut (a subsidiary of Pizza Hut). If you have a new baby at home, new job, or work odd hours, pushing yourself to compete at the same level you were before those things took over your life, isn’t helpful or healthy.
Rest is another way you can get over your burnout. While sleep is of utmost importance for runners, it is often the first thing we sacrifice to squeeze in a run. By adjusting your goals and expectations, maybe for a season, you can run what you can, and get some balance back. Maybe that’s 3 miles a day, maybe just 1. Getting more sleep and not pounding on your body could be exactly what you need.
I came across this info-graphic recently that explains some signs of burnout. It’s perhaps a bit overly simplistic, but hey, running isn’t rocket science.
So, Are you Bored or Burnt out?
Does running stress you out or have you just lost interest? If you’re constantly tired, and trying to figure out how to schedule your 7 mile tempo run into your day, you’re probably burnt out. If you look at your training plan for the day (assuming you have one) and are like, “meh, that sounds dumb,” maybe you’re bored and it’s time to try something new.