Last Sunday, I was sitting in my IKEA chair, in sweatpants, typing this blog post. There was a derby practice starting in 15 minutes, but I would not be there. Yes, I felt a little guilty about not making the hour-long drive to attend a three-hour practice, but I also felt great about spending time at home with my husband, going ice skating, helping with some chores, making dinner together, and just being present.
I love roller derby and I love putting in as much effort as I can to be better, but I also know when my body and mind need a break. I have talked to many people who attend 3-5 practices every week and never feel bogged down by their lives outside of derby. In some ways, I envy them. But I also know I could not possibly maintain that sort of lifestyle. This does not mean I don’t work out practically every day (usually a workout specifically designed to help with roller derby). It just means if my derby practices begin to interfere with my daily routines, it makes me unhappy. What is the point of playing roller derby if it makes you unhappy to go to practice?! These unhappy feelings are the beginning of athlete burnout.
There have been several scientific articles on athlete burnout, and most of them characterize burnout as the following:
-Emotional and physical fatigue
-Feelings of inadequacy and negative evaluations of your performance and ability
-Detached attitude towards sport and lack of concern for performance quality
(T.D. Raedeke. Is athlete burnout more than just stress? A sport commitment perspective. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 19 (1997), pp. 396–417)
Granted, there are plenty of players that use any excuse to not attend practices. However, skipping practices because you don’t want to go is much different than skipping practices to avoid burnout.
I have several physical and mental signs that occur when I know I need to take a day off of practice:
- A sense of dread in the pit of my stomach when I get in my car to go to derby.
- Increase anxiety from trying to figure out how I will get everything done.
- A lack of focus or interest when I am at practice.
While these signs are different for everyone, it is important to understand when your body is telling you to take a step back. Just remember, you are the only one that knows whether you are just skipping practices because you don’t want to go (as opposed to avoiding burnout and trying to become the best derby player you can be). Listen to your body!
So while the travel season is already beginning for some of us, think about how you can maintain the intensity and athleticism needed for the entire season. Don’t let yourself slip into unhappiness and decreased athletic performance because you refuse to allow yourself to breathe occasionally.