Instead of training this evening, I ate approximately a million cookies. If you think the decision to stay away from the gym, and instead lounge around and eat an ungodly amount of cookies, was an easy one then you are mistaken. As
an athlete a physically active person and a type A personality, it can be difficult to admit that you need a break.
The discomfort with calling myself an athlete is part of the reason I find admitting I am burned out so difficult. Acknowledging that I need a break from training Muay Thai feels like acknowledging I am inherently weak.
Combat sports is so much about mental toughness and pushing through in spite of discomfort. If I need a break what does that say about my ability to compete? Maybe I don’t have what it takes to be a fighter. Throwing in the towel when the going gets tough isn’t the attitude of an athlete!
Is taking a break from training giving up though? No, it’s not. It’s training smart so you can come back from the break stronger than before. It’s listening to what your mind and body need. Even though this all sounds logical, it’s a tough thing to make peace with. Even as I type this I can’t help but think “If only I could push through!”
I can’t. I tried that and it backfired in the most disastrous way.
Recently I had what was arguably one of the worst weeks I’ve experienced this year. (It’s in the top three for sure or would it be more appropriate to say bottom three? Idk, anyway…) Life felt sucky, in and out of the gym. I knew something had to change after I literally let myself get beat up.
I had been feeling off for a couple of days. Some financial obligations had triggered my anxiety. What do I do when I am feeling anxious or just generally down? I train! So I hit the gym. However, once I got there I realized I didn’t actually want to be there. I found myself half-assing my training.
That week on sparing night, after another hour of subpar pad work, I decided to stay and spar EVEN THOUGH it was the first day of my period I was feeling especially awful, mentally and physically. Everything in my body told me to go home and I ignored.
I asked my trainer if we would be doing anything too hard because the thought of getting kneed in the stomach while cramping was not a pleasant one. He essentially told me to suck it up.
Well, I got in the cage and it was a DISASTER. The whole time I was sparring all I could think of was how much I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t even try. I barely threw anything and I let everyone I sparred hit me with whatever they wanted. Zero offense. Zero defense. An actual heavy bag would have done more than I did that night.
When it was all over I crawled behind a garbage bin and cried. (How metaphoric.) I was so embarrassed and angry at myself. Yes, everyone has bad sparring experiences, especially when they first start, but I didn’t even try!
I had worked so hard, especially dealing with gender stereotypes, to get to the point to were I was even allowed to spar and I blew it by not even trying. What would my training partners think? What would my coach think? Probably, that I was a weak little girl that didn’t deserve to be there. I knew that was what I was thinking.
After allowing myself to feel like an A1 loser for a day, I gathered myself together to reflect on what had happened. I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I was burnt out, being on period, and all the fun symptoms that accompany it only aggravated the situation and culminated in a total shit show.
SO I’ve decided to take a break from Muay Thai for at least a week, maybe more. I’ve been going hard for all of 2016. The only time I took a “break” was when I got sinusitis, and being sick is no break. Yes, it is tough to admit I need a break but all the signs are there. (Check out this article by fitness writer Amanda Russell for signs that you might be burnt out too. It really brought it home for me.)
I didn’t do sports in high school. Training hard for 3-6 days (and lately it’s been closer to 6) a week is new for me. Even experienced athletes need time to rest so why wouldn’t I? Again, even though logically I know I need a break, it’s hard not to judge myself. I worry that once I go back I’ll have forgotten all technique and not even be able to remember how to throw a proper kick. This is of course dumb. I just have to push that and all my other irrational thoughts aside and listen to my body and give it what it has been asking me for: rest
So if you find yourself at the gym not even trying even though you WANT to try, if your mind feels, heavy, if your body feel heavy, if you find yourself hating something you used to enjoy, then you might just be burnt out. I wish I would have realized that before, oh you know, I got publically beat up but alas some lessons are learned the hard way. Listen to your body. Give it some time to rest and comeback stronger.
PS: For a good post about overtraining check out this one by Sean Fagan of Muay Thai Guy.
Stay tuned to the blog to learn how my break goes and if I return to training a super Saiyan or if I forget everything I previously learned.