To my fellow athletes (and other-job-doers too) who are in a rut: you are not alone.
Since returning from training camp in Germany a month ago, I’ve been clawing my way back from biathlon burnout. The training camp environment has always posed a high risk of burnout to me, and this particular camp burned my “fire within” down to its embers and left me feeling like…ash. The subsequent week of rest and easy training went by too fast and was followed immediately by our annual “testing week,” which jams five race-effort sessions into seven days. That was like throwing a big bucket of water on dying coals. I had to pull out of our final test; it was the first time in memory that I didn’t finished a workout I started.
Rollerski time trial in Jericho, VT… the last workout before I bailed.
With the first World Cup competition less than eight weeks away, it was a tough call whether to take a two-week vacation from my personalized training plan, or to push ahead, knowing I might be digging myself a deeper hole. After much discussion (crying) with my coach, I decided to continue training, but with a few scheduled 3-day breaks, reduced high intensity, and a commitment to taking it day-by-day. I slowly started to rekindle my fire within, the intermittent breakdown notwithstanding.
Behind every “I’m so happy to be here doing what I love!” there are moments of “Why am I doing this?”
This past week, I logged my second-highest training volume of the year: 22 hours and 35 minutes, plus several additional hours of shooting, and most importantly I did it tear-free and even enjoyed myself. So I can say with relative confidence that my internal flame is flickering once again.
Succeeding at the highest level of sport is deceptively hard. Behind every “I’m so happy to be here doing what I love!” there are moments of “Why am I doing this?” But the world almost never sees those moments. It is taboo to talk about them, because doing so might discourage young athletes, disappoint sponsors, or detract from a perfect public image. And after all, unlike true hardship, this is a choice. But like many taboo topics, moments of doubt are clandestinely universal. We can help each other out by acknowledging their existence.
Shout out to my sports psychologist, Sean McCann, who is a sage. Just look at him!
Also shout out to my coach, Jonne Kähkönen, who sees me at my worst and never gets mad.
Also shout out to my teammates who step up the positive energy in times of need.