Parkview Health Logo

Athletes, how’s here to navigate burnout

Last Modified: February 29, 2024

Sports & Exercise


This post was written by Scott Charland, ATC, human performance specialist, Parkview Sports Medicine.

When high achievers set a lofty goal, there aren’t many obstacles that can stand in their way. People who are wired for focus tend to face external challenges head-on and minimize distractions that threaten to take them off course. While success is the prize, such relentlessness can also come at a price: burnout. The “B word.”

As we get older, we often hear people talking about burnout concerning the ever-elusive work-life balance. But in the athletic training world, we see it often with those who pursue high-intensity workouts or events that require significant physical training and student-athletes.

What causes athletes to burn out?

It sounds simple enough. You work too hard, train too much, and don’t get enough rest or recovery, so your body revolts by refusing to function the way you believe it should.

As a coach, burnout’s sneaky tendencies have caught me by surprise. Given the easy equation, you would think it’s a no-brainer for athletes to recognize when they’ve hit burnout. But remember, we’re dealing with laser-focused, highly driven individuals. When the symptoms of low energy availability present, often in the form of fatigue, lack of appetite, lack of drive, injury or sickness occur, athletes will typically assume they just need to try harder, and do more to fight the urge to become complacent or lazy.

Coaches, parents and athletic trainers have a responsibility to educate student-athletes on the causes and symptoms of burnout, so they can recognize the signs and recoup appropriately.

Addressing burnout

Unfortunately, the best thing for an athlete experiencing burnout is the last thing they want to do, which is rest and stay away from their sport/training. As someone in a supportive role or an older athlete, here are some good proactive measures to take to address burnout:

  • Plan breaks throughout the year, just as you would a vacation.
  • Schedule breaks around highly stressful times like final exams.
  • Consider planning a “staycation” every other month.

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to addressing burnout.

While we’ve focused quite a bit on student-athletes, burnout can happen to anyone who’s training regularly or working toward a movement goal. Even if you don’t consider yourself an athlete, but workout frequently to maintain your health or fitness level, you are at risk of running into the symptoms outlined above. Busyness and burnout are best buddies. Be aware of what’s going on in your mind and body so that you can recognize when it’s time to increase recovery, sleep or relaxation.

If you need help navigating your fitness journey, Peak Performance Training can help. For more information or to schedule a session, call 260-266-4007 or complete our online form.

Related Blog Posts

View all posts