A guide to winning the war against mid-season burnout
I know many people who heed the wisdom that, “the more you don’t want to do something, the more you should probably go ahead and do it.”
Or, as they say in the same vein, “the greater the risk, the greater the reward.”
So, when it comes to competition, especially once we reach the middle of the season, the times we really REALLY don’t feel like stepping up to the start line are the times we probably need to the most.
Whether it’s a bike race, a running race, a softball game or any other type of event, the mental game begins long before the whistle blows or the clock starts.
We bail out for many reasons. Sometimes it’s just a common spell of laziness. A better opportunity could have come up. It could be an injury you’re protecting, a fear of new injury or a fear of losing. But, more often than not, it’s pure, unadulterated burnout.
Even if the task at hand – an athletic event or, even, a social invitation that comes up – seems suddenly unappealing for any of these reasons, what I always like to ask myself is, what else would I be doing?
If the only alternatives are: A) watching TV, B) going to a bar or C) nothing in particular, I can usually convince myself to suck it up and race.
Also, I examine things as they might play out long term. For instance of there’s a competition coming up that I don’t feel like doing, I try to determine which decision – participating or not participating – will make my life richer. What will be the more prominent memory when I’m 80 years old and looking back? Sometimes, depending on the alternatives, participating isn’t always the best choice. Like the prospect of doing a mountain bike race when there is a coinciding opportunity to do a group ride with friends – Plan B might be the way to go.
One good reason to decide to race is personal athletic growth. In competition, however, there is often no consistent progression of success (as far as actual results go, anyway). When I race, it might be sheer naivete that sometimes tells me, “hey, if I finished fourth in the last race, I should land on the podium this time, because I’ve improved since then.” Not so. The competition is always changing for one thing, not to mention, churning through its own unpredictable spiral of success. But it could also be a bad day.
I know for certain there were days last year when I was a much stronger rider – pedaling uphill confidently through technical obstacles and bombing downhills without touching the brakes – and days last week where a hedgehog could have handled a bike better.
People hit their athletic prime unpredictably. The Tour de France illustrates this as much as anything. Look at Jan Ullrich. The guy hadn’t won a stage since 1998, then he blows everyone away in the 12th stage time trial. Not because he had sculpted his skill to perfection on that particular day, but because his existing skill surfaced at an opportune time and boded well with the circumstances.
Even in competitions where we end up dead last with broken equipment, broken limbs or shattered confidence, ultimately we still grow athletically in one way or another. The real growth comes with rising after we’ve fallen.
In local races this time of year, a part of me understands why the fields dwindle. Ahh, burnout. We all know it. Still, a bigger part of me is disappointed. Because no matter how much I don’t feel like competing, that feeling never overpowers the sense of accomplishment after it’s all over.
Regardless of results or outcome of the event, the sense of accomplishment always arrives, and, more often than not, it was a fun trip. That’s what brings me back. And if it wasn’t a fun trip, well … the next time is your first crack at redemption.
Shauna Farnell can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at email@example.com.
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