4 Ways to Beat Running Burnout

While every runner experiences a burnout eventually, how you deal with it is what really matters.


By B.J.


Whether you’re a longtime runner or a newbie, one thing you’re going to have to deal with is burnout. At some point, you’re going to get tired of doing what you’re doing. Running is repetitive, and as meditative as it can be, anytime you do the same thing over and over, you’re occasionally going to need to spice things up.

That’s normal, and it happens to everyone. But if you’re aware of it enough to expect the burnout, you can deal with it a lot easier.

Get Off The Treadmill

If you’re anything like me, the first time you’ll have to deal with running burnout is after spending more than your fair share of time on the treadmill. Months of staring at yourself in a mirror while running in place is enough to drive nearly anyone a little batty.

Luckily, the solution is simple: go outside.

Running outdoors is a much different experience than on the treadmill. Not only does the scenery change, so does the terrain and temperature (both of which can affect your perceived effort level), and you get far more intense breezes and wind in your face instead of stagnant gym air.

To make the transition a little easier, set your treadmill incline to 2 before you make the swap from inside to outside. A 2% incline helps your body mimic the extra stress of propelling yourself along ground that doesn’t move for you.

Slow Down

If you’re already outside (or you just love the treadmill), and you’re still burning out, there are still things you can do. One major reason for burnout is that you’re pushing yourself too hard.

The easy solution for that is to just slow down. It’s a lot better to run 30-60 seconds slower sometimes than to be unable to force yourself out the door, but know you’re hitting a PR every time. Running is a mental sport more than anything, and if you constantly push yourself to your limit, your mind and body can’t keep up.

In order to progress and increase fitness, you’re going to have to push yourself. But you don’t have to do it every single time you lace up. If you set at least one session each week to be an “easy” or “recovery” run, settling into an easy pace you can maintain for the duration, there’s a good chance you’ll rediscover what made you want to lace up in the first place.

Get New Stuff

Sometimes burnout has nothing to do with running itself. Your training may be going very well. Your mind is in the right place. Your pace is on point. Your breathing and cadence and form are perfect.

But you still hate lacing up. So what gives?

It might just be because you hate all the stuff you’re using to run. How long has it been since you got new gear? There’s nothing quite like breaking in a new pair of running shoes. Or trying out some new headphones or sunglasses or activity tracker.

The issue with getting new gear to spruce up your runs is cost. New stuff can be expensive. On the cheaper end of awesome newness, though, are apps and playlists. Adding new songs to your running mix can really liven up a boring run. So can tracking your run with a new GPS app that gives you slightly different metrics than you’re used to.

Cross Train

Every once in a while, there’s nothing that can be done. Sometimes, you’re just done with running. That’s okay. It happens to everyone.

Just don’t give up on fitness altogether. If you need to cut back on your running, just make sure you supplement your weekly routine by cross training. Replace a few miles of pounding the pavement with a session riding a bike. Whether it’s stationary or on a road or trail, cycling is an excellent way for runners to change things up and still build fitness. Not only will your cardiovascular fitness transfer over, but it’s much lower impact--so your body will be given a much-needed rest.

Swimming is another excellent low-impact choice for cross training runners, especially in the middle of summer. You beat the boredom and the heat. You can’t really get much better than that.

Runners looking to cross train do need to consider strength training, too. Despite what most people think, runners actually do need to build the muscles in their core and upper body. While no runner is going to compete in the Mr. Olympia competition, having a solid upper body only increases efficiency while running. Your muscles tire less quickly, you hold proper running form better, and your body processes oxygen and fuel better overall.

In It Together

Next time you start get getting tired of your day-to-day runs, just remember that you’re not alone. Everyone has to deal with those feelings at some point in their running career, but as long as you keep a few things in mind, you will be ready to deal with it for what it is--just a phase.

B.J. is a certified personal trainer from the American Fitness Institute and holds a Master’s degree in English. He is currently training for his first marathon. He’s also a geek who has lost 155 pounds. He wants to teach other geeks and nerds how to live healthy, fitness-oriented lives. You can find more of his work on his blog Geek Fitness.

Main Photo Credit: Brian A Jackson/; Second Photo Credit: Maridav/; Third Photo Credit: Sander van der Werf/; Fourth Photo Credit: Maridav/

Sep 23, 2015