If you’ve been following my journey, you know that burnout has been a harsh teacher for me. Gone are the days when long endurance rides, Ironman triathlons, and marathons were my identity.
Now, as someone who’s hit that dreaded burnout wall and lived to tell the tale, my perspective on exercise has dramatically shifted.
And guess what? I’ve never felt better.
Why the Change?
The turning point for me wasn’t just a feeling of physical, mental, and emotional depletion; it was being diagnosed with a chronic illness that forced me into a period of mandatory rest.
This uninvited pause was a wake-up call, pushing me to reassess my relationship with exercise and work.
I realized my intense training and ambitious goals had led me into a vicious cycle of burnout that was affecting more than just my physical health.
It impacted my self-esteem, relationships, and even my nutritional choices.
No longer could it be just another box to tick off or a way to prove my self-worth. This transformation wasn’t merely about swapping out one set of exercises for another; it was a paradigm shift.
I run now because it brings me joy – I don’t run because I have to prove something.
Running: Quality Over Quantity
Today, my focus has moved from clocking crazy miles to focusing on the quality of my workouts. I run four days a week, with a strict limit—no more than 13 miles at a time.
As a matter of fact, my long runs are now a feel-good 8-10 miles, which has been a refreshing change from my earlier, more strenuous routines. (Not to mention the time I get back in my day!) I usually run ‘long’ on Thursday mornings to further free up my weekends to live a normal life again 😉
The Science Behind Shorter Runs
The decision to switch to shorter, more intense runs was done with the help of my run coach, Jason Spears. (I use a coach nowadays to help me stay in the sweet spot rather than pushing my body to its outer limits!)
As a matter of fact, studies show that these shorter, high-intensity runs can deliver the same cardiovascular perks as those grueling long runs, but without beating up my body in the process.
And let’s be real: after my experiences with overuse injuries and the toll that excessive running took on my already vulnerable health, minimizing that risk became a priority for me on my healing journey.
I never want to go back to that state of burnout and illness ever again!
The Power of Weight Training
Strength training was something I often skipped when I was deep into the Ironman scene. I mean, who has the time or energy to even look at a dumbbell when you’re clocking in so many miles swimming, biking, and running?
But times have changed, especially now that I’ve hit the milestone of my fabulous 40s. Prioritizing muscle mass, bone density, and joint health has moved to the forefront of my fitness goals.
I include weight training three days a week – usually on Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays – alternating upper and lower body. It usually takes me 30 mins (or less!), which I love because I’m not slugging away for hours to get the benefits.
If you’re interested in my strength workouts, give me a holler and I’ll share!
Why EPOC Matters
Another reason I love weight training is that it promotes EPOC, or Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption.
What’s that? EPOC helps you burn more calories even when you’re resting. It’s like your body’s way of saying thank you for putting it through a rigorous weight-training session.
Weight training increases your metabolic rate and keeps it elevated for hours, even days, after your workout. (More than running or any cardio)
So grab those weights 😉
Nutrition: The Animal-Based Advantage
I used to live on coffee and protein bars… and let me be the first to tell you, that’s just NOT sustainable.
Now, when it comes to nutrition, I’ve chosen to lean into an animal-based diet and, trust me, the difference has been night and day.
We often overlook the role nutrition plays in recovery, but it’s sooooooo important! I’ve moved to focus on animal-based foods because of their nutrient density, which I’ve found significantly shortens my recovery time and enhances my overall well-being. (And help me kick chronic illness!)
Animal products offer high-quality protein that’s complete with all nine essential amino acids, making it easier for the body to repair tissues and muscles post-workout.
Plus, these nutrients are generally more bioavailable in animal-based foods, meaning your body can absorb and utilize them more efficiently compared to plant-based sources.
Rest Days and Yoga
Ah, the often-overlooked but oh-so-important rest days! My ‘rest days’ used to be an hour swim plus 2-3 miles easy runs…. Doesn’t sound like rest, does it?
Now, rest days have become a non-negotiable part of my routine, and I usually take a complete day off either on Fridays or Sundays.
It hasn’t been easy to completely let go, but I feel WAY less guilty or restless for not squeezing in yet another training session. I remind myself that tomorrow is another day, a day I can get back to my workout routine and to enjoy the downtime…
I’ve also sprinkled in some yoga sessions a few times a month, typically on my designated rest days. Yoga doesn’t just make you more flexible physically; it’s a form of active recovery that can significantly reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety
It’s like hitting the reset button for both my body and mind… I love it!
The Takeaway: Listen to Your Body
So here’s the final, most critical takeaway: Listen to your body.
While having a structured workout plan from platforms like TrainingPeaks can be incredibly useful, remember that these plans are guidelines, not commandments etched in stone.
Your body knows when it needs rest, and it will send signals—some subtle, some not so subtle—that you should not ignore.
From my own journey through burnout and chronic illness, I’ve learned to become finely attuned to what my body is telling me. Whether it’s a twinge of pain, a lack of motivation, or just a sense that something is off, I’ve found value in listening to what my body is trying to tell me.
Remember: No app or platform can ever know you as intimately as you know yourself.
I may not have all the answers, but I’ve learned A LOT from my challenging journey through burnout and chronic illness.
Life is all about balance, and neglecting your health for the sake of so-called ‘productivity’ or ‘achievement’ is a gamble that’s not worth taking.
Remember, life is more of a marathon than a sprint. Each step, each choice, matters in the grand scheme of things. The decisions you make today show up tomorrow…
I’m cheering you on!
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