The benefits of practicing any sport in youth are undoubted. It gives young athletes a chance to stay healthy and have fun. However, today’s sports are becoming more and more competitive every day. And as a result, many young athletes suffer from burnout. They train too hard, do not get enough rest, and have a lot of other duties in addition to being great athletes. However, there are several simple ways for today’s youth to prevent athlete burnout.
What is burnout, and what are its warning signs?
Before discussing how to avoid burnout, we should define it and identify its symptoms. Burnout is our body’s reaction to chronic stress caused by overtraining or several external stressors. Those external stressors can be parents or coaches that put too much pressure on athletes, for instance.
Furthermore, personality traits such as perfectionism might induce a person to set unrealistically high objectives for herself, leading to overtraining. Their expectations and standards can become so high that they are impossible to reach. As a result, they have two choices: either they overtrain and burn out, or they abandon their objective and accept that they will never be good enough. Unfortunately, neither of the two choices is healthy for a young mind. So, parents and trainers have to be aware and recognize or prevent young athletes from reaching this point.
The symptoms of burnout
You must be able to detect the symptoms of burnout to avoid it. Even though the symptoms are numerous and vary from case to case, there are a few typical ones that you will find in the majority of cases. These symptoms are:
- Tiredness and sleepiness, more than usual.
- A negative attitude towards oneself.
- Negative attitude in training.
- Loss of interest and pleasure in practicing sports.
- Isolating oneself from friends.
- Concentrating solely on training and disregarding other interests.
- Exacerbating physical symptoms from injuries.
- Prolonging the time of recovery.
- Depression, low self-esteem, and sudden mood swings.
- Nutrition problems.
- Cheating during training.
- Difficulty in staying focused.
And now that you know what burnout is and how it looks, we can start talking about ways to prevent athlete burnout.
1. Give your body what it needs.
Besides a good night’s sleep, your body also needs food, water, and enough oxygen to function correctly. Therefore, eat well, hydrate properly, and give yourself time to breathe:
- Nourish your body with a natural and light diet. Avoid processed foods, sweets, meat, and dairy products as much as possible, and eat more fruit and vegetables.
- Hydrate your body before, during, and after a workout. Drink water 30 minutes before you start training, every 10 to 20 minutes during training, and 30 minutes after you finish.
- Try to control your breathing while you work out and do breathing exercises as often as you can. Did you know that you can boost your athletic performance with something as simple as proper breathing?
2. Get enough good sleep.
Getting enough quality sleep is very important for athletes. The research has found that athletes’ burnout can be prevented and even treated with quality sleep. It can also help them recover faster from injuries, speed up recovery, and lower stress levels. Finally, your body is completely relaxed during sleep, and the production of growth hormones is at its highest point.
Make sure you get 9 hours of sleep each night. Even if regular people require 8 hours of sleep per night, athletes need more because of the intense activity and training. Avoid working out just before bedtime, though. But, if you do train at home in the evenings, do some post-workout stretches that will help you relax your body and prepare it for sleep.
3. Focus on having fun.
Sure, we all want to win, but we also need to enjoy the game. When you stop enjoying a sport, there is a good possibility you will stop participating in it. Also, a must-win-at-all-costs mentality can never bring anything good. So, it’s best to concentrate on improving your skills while also having fun.
Don’t define success only by winning but also by your capacity to improve a bit each time. And remember that no one has become a great athlete overnight. It takes time, patience, and setting realistic goals.
4. Participate in multiple sports.
There is a wrong perception regarding participating in multiple sports and specialization. For instance, some people believe that if you want to become a great athlete, you need to start training very young and in only one sport. That can’t be further from the truth. In reality, young children should be encouraged to try out multiple sports and pick the one they like the most. When children have a voice in whatever sport they will participate in, they grow more committed. As a result, the possibility of becoming successful also grows.
So, never pick a sport because you have to, but because you enjoy it. Also, try out as many sports as it takes until you find the one that suits you, and the results will start appearing soon enough.
5. Take a break.
After each training session, your need to rest and recover. That is the way our bodies work. Unfortunately, many athletes don’t understand the importance of rest and tend to train too hard for too long. As a result, they reach burnout within a year. One of the ways to keep athlete burnout at bay is to recognize when you need to rest. After a marathon, for instance, or after a season, you should always take some time off to focus on relaxing and letting your body recover. So, put your training equipment away for the time being. For peace of mind, consider storing everything in a storage unit to keep your items safe while you aren’t using them. If you don’t want to stop training completely, you will still have access to the equipment whenever you need it. You only need to keep everything neat and nicely organized. If you aren’t exactly sure how to go about it, take the time to learn how to do it like a pro.
6. Stay organized
Another way to avoid athlete burnout is to keep track of your performance and stay organized. For example, keep note of every aspect of each of your workouts, including distance, pace, and intensity, as well as heart rate, resistance, and fatigue levels. That way, you monitor your evolution and know if you can increase the duration or intensity or you should decrease it. Also, limit training to a maximum of 20 hours per week with an hour and a half per session, and take at least one or two days off weekly. This way, you can avoid ever reaching burnout.
For young athletes, burnout has become more and more of a worry. They are exhausted emotionally and physically, as well as apprehensive and demotivated. However, you can prevent athlete burnout with proper planning and awareness of your needs. Nourish your body with good food and water, get enough sleep, and take breaks from time to time. And, most importantly, try to have fun when playing the sport.