12 Ways to Avoid Marathon Training Burnout

Don’t you ever get tired of running?

You’ve certainly been asked this at least once in your running history. On stellar running days, you laugh and proclaim how much you love it…but towards the end of marathon training you take an extra beat before muttering something about a runner’s high.

After all we can’t admit to non-runners any potential misgivings about our decisions to run 26.2 miles, lest we give them any reason not to join our league of crazy.

Burnout is a condition that has physical, emotional, and psychological aspects. Burnout is real; leads to fatigue, loss of motivation, depression, and even anger.

Burnout, not to be confused with overtraining though the two often happen simultaneously, usually rears it’s head as a serious case of our inner terrible two’s screaming “but I don’t wanna” every time we’re supposed to lace up.

If left unchecked you give in because who can resist a crying baby forever? You skip a run and it feels kind of fantastic…then another run which makes you feel guilty, but…then you’ve excused a long run and suddenly it’s marathon weekend and you’re left wishing you’d applied a little tough love.

Remember, avoiding burnout is not the same as how not to get tired while running. For that, checkout this post on increasing endurance.

While every training cycle will have highs and lows, here are 12 ways to help avoid or recover from marathon training burnout.

Release Performance Goals

Sometimes burn out is a direct result of many runners Type A tendencies. Needing to follow the plan to a T, nailing every workout and of course focusing on that massive PR attempt can lead to unnecessary stress.

Matt Fitzgerald discusses the idea of fun leading to improvement in his book Runprioritizing enjoyment and trusting that the more fun we have in training, the fitter we will become.” I think this is because it allows us to be flexible with our training and releases the performance pressure because no matter the finish line result, we’ve enjoyed the journey.

Avoid Marathon Training Burnout


In complete contrast to the above tactic is to jumping in to a 5 or 10K race in the next couple weeks. Many runners get reinvigorated to train hard by a little extra competition and often from the surprising results that show they are making progress. Can’t find a local race? You might get the same benefits from a virtual race.

Important note here: If you’re feeling fatigued, worn out, or on the brink of injury the be smart enough NOT to employ this tactic.

Cross Train

It goes without saying that one way to get over running doldrums is simply to stop running! Do something else for a day or even a week. Often a few days of moving your body in new ways or slowing down with yoga will leave you jonesing for a run. {Ask any runner who has ever been injured!}

At a minimum it will give your muscles a break so you can head out on fresher legs, and who doesn’t love it when a run feels easier?

As Coach Amanda Loudin reminds us the biggest running mistake is not resting. Give your body a chance to absorb all the work you’ve been putting in over the last few months. If you want to get the most out of your cross training check out these options which will enhance your running.

Know It’s Normal

Even the most talented, dedicated, hard core athletes experience burn out.

Find comfort in knowing that nearly every runner has moments of doubt at some point in weeks 12-16 of an 18 week cycle. Misery loves company and all that, but more importantly you know that this feeling will pass for you just as it has for all those who trained before you.

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Time Management

Marathon training inevitably takes more time than we assume.

It’s not just the run. There is the warm up, the cool down, the stretching to prevent IT Band pain, the ice baths, the time planning more healthy snacks because you’re ravenous, the extra laundry and the extra sleep! However, you aren’t the first time strapped person to take on marathon training, learn from those who have come before you.

It’s entirely possible to make it happen, if this goal really matters to you. See how some other totally stress, totally busy made it through 26.2 training.

Ease Up On Pace

Not every run should be done at the same pace. Ensuring you have a solid mix of easy and intense keeps you from beginning to dread workouts because you know some days will simply be about enjoying the movement and others about mentally feeling stronger.

Many runners get caught up in the numbers on their watch instead of focusing on building mileage. The mid-point of marathon training is often where peak mileage occurs and thus intensity may need to drop.

Avoid marathon training burnout


Remember this entire experience is an adventure.

Each day you are learning new things about yourself – “who knew I could run that far?!”can’t believe I pushed through that one” “something in my body doesn’t feel right.”

By focusing on the entire journey it makes each run more important and more enjoyable. When your sole focus is race day, the individual runs lose importance and thus desire declines. Adventure can also meaning changing up your running.

  • Find new paths
  • Make a goal for each run
  • Take it off the roads once in awhile
  • Run your normal route going the opposite direction


I’m a major proponent of solo runs for mental and physical benefits, but sometimes the best way to beat burnout is a running buddy.

Maybe it’s a group you run with all the time. Maybe it’s seeking an entirely new crew for a change of scenery. Chatting can help to pass the miles and make you look forward to the workouts by sharing them with someone else who understands how hard this process can be.

Just remember your group should be supporting you…not pushing you so hard that every workout becomes a race. That can definitely lead to injury and burnout.

Avoid marathon training burnout

Find Your Joy

One of the unintended side effects of being injured is that you realize just how important running has become in your life. Most runners will hold on to that feeling for a month or so after returning, but it’s possible to keep it going for many years if you spend a little time on each run simply remembering why you love it.

Maybe it means checking out some Pinterest boards for motivation, maybe it means reviewing your training logs or looking at race medals…or maybe it’s simply remember that the without the really bad runs, you’d never appreciate the one’s that leave you feeling like a million bucks.

Avoid marathon training burnout

Long Run Only Goodies

It might sound strange, but put aside a few things that you are only allowed to use or have on long runs. I LOVE my Vega Pre-Workout Energizer, but save it for long runs. Maybe for you it’s Swedish fish or the one day you allow yourself a froyo date with the fam.

I have audiobooks that I save just for the long run because it makes me think all week about getting back out there to find out what happens next. It’s an added bonus that gets me excited to spend a few hours on my feet. I’m a booknerd, it’s ok.

Instagram, Hashtag, Tweet It

Head down, pushing through we often miss the beauty of the areas we’re running through. Under normal circumstances I would say put that cell phone a way, but oddly in this one instance thinking about a photo to share from the run forces you to connect with where you are!

Once you’ve posted add a few hashtags like #InstaRunners #WeRunSocial #RunnerChat and watch the running/fitness community show up to be your cheerleader. On bad runs they help remind you it will pass and on great one’s they give you a virtual high five.

{Are we Instagram buds?}

how to avoid marathon training burnout

Rave Runs

My favorite thing about running is the simplicity.

Walk out the door, start running.

BUT driving to a special spot for a long run can make all the difference when training is beginning to feel hard or like a chore. Living in Florida we had to get up extra early to drive to Flagler Beach or Clay Road, but no matter how hard the run I couldn’t stop smiling in those places.

It’s absolutely worth it every time.

Avoid marathon training burnout

Help the community out and share your tips!!
What’s your favorite trick for passing the miles on a rough day?

How do you manage long training cycles?

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12 Ways to Avoid Marathon Training Burnout is written by amanda for

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