8 Steps to Avoiding Mid Season Burnout
Have you reached the end of June and noticed that you just don’t have the motivation you had back in January? Are you falling asleep earlier in the evening and having to force yourself to get out of bed in the morning? Does it seem that you are no longer the first one to arrive at the track and one of the last to roll onto the track for practice? If these symptoms sound familiar, you are probably facing a case of mid-season burnout.
As a racer, you can withstand a lot of stress (i.e. racing) and high load levels (strength training, cross training, etc.), but you reach a point where we need take a step back and recover, both mentally and physically. Let’s consider the characteristics of burnout and review some strategies to help you overcome this situation:
Evaluate your short, mid, and long-term goals and honestly assess whether they are realistic given your other responsibilities, such as family and work/school. Do you have enough time to get the necessary ride time & workouts in to meet your goals, or do you find that riding time & workouts are adding another level of stress to your lifestyle? If you find that you are cramming everything in to get it all done, you need to re-evaluate your race goals. Remember, you don’t have to drop out of a race just because you couldn’t train exactly the way you intended. Instead, realign your expectations in light of the available training time. Don’t let the likelihood of failing to meet your expected results rob you of the enjoyment & challenge of participation.
Review your lap times and field-testing results and analyze how far you have come since the beginning of the year. If you haven’t improved as much as you would have liked, then you need to look into your training protocols; something is obviously missing. If you currently don’t have a coach to develop and analyze your weekly progress, please scan your food and training logs and send them to me (email@example.com) and I will review them for you. Please include your current three month goals when you send your training & food logs so that I have an idea what you are trying to accomplish. Having an outside opinion of your protocols will help you more readily identify your missing workouts and physical weaknesses. MotoE’s motto is to Work Smart, Not Hard!
Take a week off from training and ask yourself what drew you to this sport in the first place. Remember how excited you were about completing your first race? Take each day of your week off and spend it going over old photos and revisiting your most memorable races. Rekindle that feeling by going back to your first race track. Even if there is no longer a race there, relive it on your own (safety pending) and re-create the experience.
Change the tracks you ride and train at. Change up your workout routine or even gym (logistics pending). The key here is to be creative and break the boredom that leads to burnout. When did you start identifying your riding sessions as “workouts or training” instead of “riding”? Think about it! If you would like a free copy of an eight week riding, strength, flexibility and nutrition program, please email me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Hire a qualified human performance coach to help you improve the productivity of your training efforts both on and off of the track. There is more to nutrition, hydration, strength training, flexibility and sports psychology than being an ex mechanic or professional rider. Whenever I am challenged by an ex rider or mechanic about human performance elements, the comeback is frequently “You make this too difficult” – welcome to the world of human performance! There are so many elements associated with performance that you can’t afford to overlook even one to make the entire system work correctly. If you are not willing to learn how the body creates strength, endurance and rid itself of internal heat, you will continue to struggle with opening lap speed and late moto fatigue. If you would hire a cook to fix your car, why would you look to someone who doesn’t completely understand how the body works?
8 Steps to Avoid the Negative Effects of Burn Out
Determine your heart rate zones. After 24 years of working with racers, consistently racers train too hard on their “easy days” which leaves them tired for their high quality “hard days” of training. This tendency to train at levels much harder than they perceive them to be leads to many long-term problems including chronic fatigue syndrome (Epstein Barr) and low confidence on the bike on race day. To monitor actual intensity verses perceived intensity, each racer needs to know their max heart rate levels for the motorcycle and any form of cross training modalities used during the week [Note: these assessments need to be determined by field-testing and not calculated on general formulas]. With proper (sport specific) testing, you can establish training zones based on specific HR levels to ensure that you train the appropriate energy systems (aerobic to lactate tolerance) on any given day. Remember, if you have set realistic goals and you have the appropriate training protocols in place, you only need to adjust your training duration and intensity levels to move your performance ability forward. By training within the correct heart rate zones, you will eliminate the tendency to train too hard and too often. Pushing the envelope for extended periods of time depletes vital nutrients such as creatine and cytochrome C within the blood cells. Chronic neglect of sleep and nutrition only compounds this depletion issue. If you would like a copy of MotoE’s maximum heart rate assessment protocols and heart rate spreadsheet, please email me directly at (email@example.com).
Train more in your aerobic heart rate zones.
Racers don’t have problems “going hard,” but rather “going easy.” To many racers, this would seem counterproductive, given all of the hard work of a weekly schedule. However, low intensity-aerobic enhancing training is beneficial because the low intensity activity helps drive fresh blood flow into broken-down muscle tissue and also prepare the muscles for slow, passive stretching.
What is the highest heart rate (HR) at which you can exercise and still get the benefits of active recovery? This training zone is a combination of your true max heart rate and your resting heart rate levels. Determining all of your training zones (from easiest to the hardest) requires capturing your resting heart rate for a minimum of two weeks to establish an up-to-date average and completing a max heart rate test (see above). If you would like a copy of our MotoE Body Analysis spreadsheet to easily document your morning resting heart rate, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have your blood chemistry evaluated for any deficiencies. You need to identify any deficiencies that may inhibit performance, and more importantly, your overall health. Some common deficiencies we frequently see with our racers are low red blood cell count, high white blood cell count, low levels of iron & CoQ10. With some simple adjustments to your diet and eating nutritional meals on a regular basis, your blood chemistry will return to normal. Keep in mind that it takes six months to completely replace all of your muscle tissue; the body you have today is literally a reflection of what you have been consuming over the last six months. If you would like simple snack, meal and smoothie ideas, please email me directly at email@example.com.
Eat more food and more often. The most common situation we have seen with our riders is that they are too busy to purchase, prep and actually sit down to eat. To validate this point, we have all MotoE clients document what and when they eat and drink. Each and every time, the rider is amazed that they are not eating enough food to fuel their daily efforts; hence the poor performance results on the track. Just like your bike, if you run out of gas, you are out of gas.
Nutrition for performance needs to be simple: eat fresh fruits, vegetables and lean sources of protein every 2 hours. This maintains a stable blood sugar level (i.e. energy level) and keeps your hunger under control (which results in less over eating).
Once you have made the adjustments to your eating sources, you now have to evaluate the performance results associated with the food you are eating. If you are sleepy after eating a particular snack or meal, then something you ate didn’t agree with your body (commonly referred to as carbohydrate, lactose or gluten intolerant). By keeping your diet relatively simple (fruits, vegetables and lean protein) as you add something to your diet, you can evaluate if your body “likes” the new addition – better energy, mental clarity and ultimately performance. If the outcome is positive, keep the item in and add a new one. Continue this process until you have established you personalized eating program.
Here is one tough part of eating fruits, vegetables and lean protein sources: they don’t contain a lot of calories.
This not only leads to fatigue and hinder performance, but more importantly your overall health because the necessary nutrients to rebuild muscle and immune system are inadequate.
This means you will need to be eating a lot of food throughout the day to have the necessary calories to fuel your daily needs (both on and off of the track). If you would like a copy of our MotoE Food/Performance spreadsheet, please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Know your sweat rate & drink plenty of fluids. When you realize that the average human body contains ninety-six pints of water and that sixty-four of these are intracellular, you quickly see the importance of hydration to a racer. Several studies suggest a half an ounce of water per pound of body weight per day to maintain your basic hydration needs (150 pound racer would need 75 ounces per day).
When a muscle becomes dehydrated by only three percent, that muscle can lose between 10-20 percent of its contractile strength and also incurs an eight percent loss of speed. Imagine undermining all of your hard work by starting your workout under hydrated and then making the situation worse by not consuming adequate fluids and electrolytes (to facilitate the absorption of the water) during a workout or immediately following a race.
Most racers don’t pay attention to how much body weight they lose during a race or workout, so they are not aware of their hydration needs on race day. At MotoE, we have our racers weight themselves before and after every workout (on or off of the track) along with document how much fluid they have consumed during the workout to determine the sweat rate given the temperature, humidity, workout intensity and duration. Though this seems like a lot of information to document and evaluate, we make it simple for our riders to evaluate by providing them a MotoE Sweat Rate Calculator. When you realize that you are only as strong as your weakest link, eliminating the question of how much to hydrate with on race day moves you one step closer to the podium. If you would like a free copy of MotoE’s Sweat Rate Calculator, please email me directly at email@example.com.
Add one hour a night to your sleep and add a nap on the weekends. Though this is the tip that costs nothing (other than your time) and is the most comfortable (if you can calm your mind), it is the most overlooked and understandably difficult to get the time. Rest is your body’s opportunity to rebuild and repair torn down muscle tissue (which is the purpose of training in the first place) and rebalance your blood chemistry with the food you have consumed. If you break down a typical twenty-four hour day, you immediately lose 8-10 hours a day for work, an hour for traveling to and from work, four hours to family and friends and you have nine hours left (ideally). However, nothing is perfect in the world and things come up that shift the above numbers, so be flexible! Striving to get the necessary sleep is step number one; arranging your schedule to allow for more of it can be difficult. I would challenge you to set your day up around your sleep versus fitting it in around your activities.
Take one day off per week. Don’t be afraid to take a day off from riding & cross-training. This means no riding or training whatsoever, no short 20 rides or short gym workouts. If at all possible, don’t wake up to an alarm. Start your day off with a good-sized breakfast full of low glycemic carbohydrates, clean and lean proteins, and healthy fats. If you have been consistent with your weekly and monthly workouts, you have nothing to fear.
Stretch more often & get a massage
If you can, arrange to get a massage or a session of facilitated stretching from an experienced therapist at least once a month. Not only will this be relaxing, this will decrease your chances of pulling a muscle if you happen to go down.
Keep in mind that proper stretching will re-establish your optimum range of motion within the muscles and surrounding joints. The better your range of motion, the less energy robbing resistance you will feel when you race. Think about tight muscles as if someone was holding onto your shirt while you were riding. The body has to offset this resistance and becomes fatigued and ultimately slower as the duration increases. Want to be faster and not fatigue as fast, become flexible.
If you would like receive a series of instructional stretch videos, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Work Smart, Not Hard!
By implementing these energy creating concepts, you will see your body produce all new levels of speed, consistent lap times and a reduction in fatigue!