The psychology of athlete burnout

The Sleeping Gypsy, by Henri Rousseau

The Sleeping Gypsy, by Henri Rousseau

Athlete burnout is a very common phenomenon. It is the reason many people just give up on exercise or playing sports. But why? Why does this happen to so many people? And what can we do to avoid it?

Luckily, the psychology of burnout has been examined, and it turns out people fitting certain psychological profiles are more likely to burnout than others. According to York St. John University, UK in Perfectionism and athlete burnout in junior elite athletes: the mediating role of coping tendencies:

Recent research indicates that some dimensions of perfectionism are positively related to athlete burnout, whereas others are negatively related to athlete burnout. The divergent relationship between these dimensions of perfectionism and athlete burnout may be explained by different coping tendencies. The present investigation examined whether different coping tendencies mediate the relationship between self-oriented and socially prescribed perfectionism and burnout. Two-hundred and six junior elite athletes (M age=15.15 years, SD=1.88 years, range=11-22 years) completed measures of self-oriented and socially prescribed perfectionism, coping tendencies, and athlete burnout. Structural equation modeling indicated that the relationship between dimensions of perfectionism and athlete burnout was mediated by different coping tendencies. Higher levels of socially prescribed perfectionism was related to higher levels of avoidant coping which, in turn, was related to higher levels of athlete burnout. In contrast, higher levels of self-oriented perfectionism was related to higher levels of problem-focused coping and lower levels of avoidant coping which, in turn, was related to lower levels of athlete burnout. The findings suggest that different coping tendencies may underpin the divergent relationship between self-oriented and socially prescribed dimensions of perfectionism and athlete burnout.

In other words, perfectionism can hinder your fitness routine or even play a big role in burn out. Do not bring an all-or-nothing approach to fitness or sports. Don’t compare yourself to others, and don’t care about what other people think. We all have our own unique genetic make ups. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t attain specific fitness goals, whether they are about weight, speed, or strength. Failure is a part of growth and success, not its opposite.

Besides this, keep trying new and different fitness activities. Doing the same exact thing every day is a near guarantee of burnout or at least boredom.

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