In Defense of Burning Out


This post was written as part of Trail Runner Magazine’s Blog Symposium. This month’s topic is, “How can trail runners avoid burnout?”.

It happens every year. Most often, this time of year, as the leaves start to fall and the days grow shorter.

The excitement of summer training and races has now faded, and many of us are lacing up our shoes with lower motivation and little drive.

It’s called burnout.

And every runner deals with it at some point.

It leaves us feeling desperate and depressed, longing for the thrill and energy we once felt for this sport that we love.

No one wants to feel burnt out on something they are passionate about, but when it does happen, you realize that it’s impossible to keep that passion burning bright when all it wants to do is extinguish.

So when you do start to feel burnt out, it’s only natural to ask yourself, “Self, what can I do to avoid burnout?”

And there are plenty of good tools and strategies, I and many others, have used to stay motivated when we’re desperate. Strategies like:

  • Mixing up your routine and discovering new routes,
  • Focusing on base fitness and working to improve that base,
  • Joining a new running group full of energy and excitement,
  • Or, Going after a big PR or new distance goal that gets you excited.

There are no shortage of these tactics that help delay burnout, but that’s all that they’re going to do.

Delay it.

In my opinion, burnout shouldn’t be viewed as this terrible thing we need to avoid, but instead as a badge of honor. Proof that we’ve been working hard and pushing our limits. Proof that we’ve left everything out on the trail.

Proof that we have more to prove.

Burnout As A Natural Occurrence

Think about it. Aside from work and family, there probably isn’t much you do consistently throughout the entire year.

We go through natural cycles:

  • As the weather changes, so do our eating habits.
  • As the months progress, so do the sports we follow and watch on TV.
  • Music tastes and bands that excite us continue to develop over time.
  • Beer that you loved in January might be overlooked come August.

And after months of intense training and racing, and hours spent studying course maps, designing routes, and suffering on the foam roller, it’s only natural for us to want a break.

To need a break.

If we consistently push at our highest level, progress will ultimately come to a halt, and we’ll begin to hate whatever it is we’re pushing so hard to achieve.

Burnout As A Badge of Honor

The most burnt out I’ve ever felt were the days following this year’s Massanutten Mountain 100. I didn’t all of a sudden hate the sport, in fact it was the exact opposite, but still the thought of putting on my shoes and hitting the trail made me nauseous.

Burnout, especially if it’s from something you love like trail running, means you’ve given it your all. It means you’ve spent hours and hours running in uncomfortable conditions and pushing your body.

It probably means you’ve had to make hard choices and sacrifices when it comes to work, family, and play.

It also means you’ve succeeded.

Because if it was always easy and fun, you wouldn’t ever get that burnout feeling. And doing it wouldn’t make you feel nauseous.

So be proud of yourself. This is part of the experience.

Don’t believe me?

Even the greats need time off. Kilian Jornet only runs half the year, focusing on ski mountaineering the second half. And after winning 8 gold medals at the 2008 Olympics, Michael Phelps took significant time off before training for London because he, “had to find the passion again.”

By not fighting burnout, but embracing it, we increase the likelihood of building back that flame.

Don’t be ashamed of the burnout. Be proud of the work you put in that got you there.

I took a full month off running after the MMT100. I needed it. But when I hit the trails for the first time after that break, I was like a kid in a candy shop. Eyes wide open, legs pushing hard. That day I found the passion again, and never wanted to quit.

So You’re Burnt Out, Now Pull Yourself Together

Even after all this. After claiming that burnout is not only natural, but something you should be proud of, I’m going to get real.

Pull yourself together! You’re a runner. A trail runner. And trail runners are tough.

Burning out is not an excuse to quit. Nor is it a reason to get lazy.

So take this time, and instead of forgetting about running all together, use the burnout to your advantage.

  • Take up a new sport like cycling, swimming, or something else that keeps you in shape.
  • Take care of your body so that it heals properly and prepares for next season.
  • Eat well.
  • Rest the mind.

At some point, hopefully before it’s time to really start training for next season, your burnout will end, and you’ll find that passion once again.

And when that day comes, you’ll be happy you weren’t lazy and aren’t forced to start from scratch.

Until then, embrace it. Wear your burnout proudly.

To learn more about Trail Runner Magazine’s Blog Symposium, visit there website here. 

The Cheat Sheet All Trail Runners Need


Over the past few years I’ve been paying attention (and no, not just to which company has the coolest trail shoes or best tasting beer).

I’ve been paying attention to the questions and frustrations runners share with me every day via email, and on Twitter and Facebook.

And as I work through those questions each morning, I keep noticing something that probably shouldn’t surprise me as much as it does.

It turns out most runners ask very similar questions. Questions like:

  • How can I adjust my training plan to fit my busy schedule?
  • How should I pace a trail race or ultramarathon on technical terrain?
  • How can I get through a long training cycle without another injury?
  • How do I start running again after an extended break?

And so many more.

These types of questions were coming up so frequently that I knew I had to put together something that addresses these issues. And I knew I had to offer it for free as a thank you for reading Rock Creek Runner.

TRCS-questions-300So today I’m crazy excited to announce that I have just released The Trail Runner’s Cheat Sheet.

The Cheat Sheet is a 10-part guide answering, in detail, the top 10 questions I hear from runners just like you.

We’re talking thousands of words, packed full of useful information and insight, delivered as an easy to process guide.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced runner, this straight forward guide will help you train stronger and run injury free.

Each and every part of this guide addresses another common runner question or frustration, and does so with the trail and ultra runner in mind.

Click here to learn more about the new guide, and to get Part-1 sent to your inbox today.

The best part? This cheat sheet isn’t going to get you in trouble. It’s just going to make you a better runner.

Sign up today today for The Trail Runner’s Cheat Sheet.

See you on the trails,


31 Ways to Know You’re Ready for an Ultramarathon


A lot of runners find the ultramarathon distance appealing. Especially if they are already running trails or are marathon finishers now itching for a new challenge.

But ultras can be tough. And committing to your first is scary.

After all, how do you even know if you’re ready to tackle such a distance and challenge?

It’s a great question. One probably every ultrarunner asked him or herself before running their first ultra.

So today I’ve put together a little tool I think will help you answer that question.

Here’s how it works:

Below you’ll find a list of 31 possible ways to know if you’re ready to run an ultramarathon. Work your way through the list to see which apply to you and which do not. If just one applies to you, then I think you’re ready.

Hope it helps…

Are You Ready to Run an Ultramarathon?

1) If losing a toe nail feels as natural as getting your hair cut, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

2) If you’ve run a marathon, and are itching for a little more, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

3) If you don’t mind being alone in the woods for hours at a time, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

4) If you can eat an entire sandwich in the middle of your long run, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

5) If you’re OK calling a hike/run combo a run, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

6) If you don’t mind people calling you crazy every time you say what you’re training for, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

7) If going to a dark place is part of what you’re after, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

8) If blisters don’t scare you, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

9) If you don’t mind running slow, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

10) If the thought of running in some of the worst conditions imaginable is appealing to you, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

11) If you have a beard, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

12) If you’re ready to see exactly what you’re made of, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

13) If you think you might have a friend that’s willing to run through the night with you and still call you their friend, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

14) If traveling further is more important than traveling faster, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

15)If you don’t mind starting a race before the sun comes up, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

16) If eating 10 energy gels over the course of a few hours actually sounds kind of good, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

17) If you’d prefer 10 miles on the trails over 3 miles on the road, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

18) If wearing clown shoes, or at least running next to someone wearing clown shoes (like me, for example), doesn’t bother you, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

19) If when looking for a route online you focus on multi-day backpacking routes instead of day-hikes, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

20) If you don’t mind pooping in the woods, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

21) If taking pills filled with salt seems logical, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

22) If swapping stories and beers with your fellow runners in the finish-line area sounds like fun, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

23) If trekking poles seem like a reasonable thing to carry on a run, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

24) If running through the night doesn’t make you scared of monsters, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

25) If you know who Kilian Jornet is, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

26) If the thought of running further than most people can drive without taking a pit-stop appeals to you, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

27) If you don’t mind “hitting the wall” multiple times in a single race, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

28) If you’re willing to call Coke a sports drink, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

29) If you’re willing to read a list this long, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

30) If you’re ready for a life changing experience, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

And finally….

31) If you want to run an ultramarathon, then you’re ready to run an ultramarathon.

How to Get Started

If you want it, then you’re ready.

I’m a firm believer that anyone who wants to can run an ultramarathon, they just need to know how and where to start.

I so very clearly remember how terrified I was to register for my first 50k. Anything beyond 26.2 seemed like this foreign place few wanted to visit…and even fewer survived.

But in reality, that’s not the case. Trail and ultrarunning is the fastest growing sub-group of runners, and for good reason: Ultrarunning will change your life.

It most certainly did mine.

So what are you waiting for? Check out Discover Your Ultramarathon: A Beginner’s Guide to Running an Ultramarathon and RCR’s trail and ultra coaching options for more information on how I can help you run a successful first ultra.

Call for comments: What did I leave off the list? How did you first know that you were ready to run an ultramarathon?

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This post is written by Jennifer Heidmann First, a disclaimer. Though I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. I do not herein offer official medical advice. Read at your own risk. If you are new to running, or planning a great big new running feat, check in with your doctor first. I haveContinue Reading

One Word Changed My Training Forever

I discovered a new word this year. Well, I guess I’ve known the word for a long time, but this year brought it new meaning. Consistency.  Yeah, I’m sure you know the word as well. Over the past several months, I’ve really begun to adopt this word as my main focal word for running.  I’veContinue Reading

New Free eBook: The Power of a Running Mantra

There is just no way around it. Running is tough. I recently experienced this firsthand, several hours into the Mount Mitchell Challenge, when my legs were on fire and my mind was starting to doubt a finish. Had it not been for the 7 word phrase I repeated dozens of times, I might still beContinue Reading


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