Burnout 2.0

Once again I find myself struggling to find balance…

You might remember a few months ago I had a bit of a burnout. I’d been training for 6 months solid and although things had been going really well, I came to a bit of a point where I noticed my energy levels were low, motivation dwindled and I started to notice regression in my performance. Not a great sign. I decided to take a step back from the intensity and volume of training, and instead to focus more on outdoor goals. It came at a good time as I had a work trip to the U.S. and a couple of weeks between appointments that allowed me to have a short climbing trip to Joshua Tree.

Training hard at Eden Rock Edinburgh during my 6-month Training phase… I tried hard like this for 6 months! No wonder I was shattered!
Credit: Nadir Khan

This was exactly what I needed! Joshua Tree was a total detox – no stress, no training, just great climbing and great people to spend my time with. Finding the balance that makes everything fall into place can be hard, but if I’ve learned one thing in my life, it’s that spending time with good people makes life more fun and a lot less stressful. I ended up having a great few weeks in the U.S. – climbed some hard rock routes, flashed f8b (5.13d) and made a quick ascent of a rarely repeated old-school classic of Joshua Tree. I also made a bunch of great new friends, some of which I’ll be seeing when I get back out there this Autumn.

When I returned to the UK, I realised that I needed to start getting more time on rock on the build-up to the Summer Alps trip, and made the decision to live in Yorkshire for a month or two to get that much needed time on Limestone. I saw some quick successes with an ascent of “Cry Freedom” (8c) and “Bat Route” (8c), then got really close to a more recent addition to the Malham 8c’s “Something for Nothing”, but didn’t quite seal the deal.

I’ve noticed that since my initial goes on “Something for Nothing” I’ve seen a drop in my performance yet again and in an eerily similar way to when I was burnt out pre-USA. My energy levels have been low, power and finger-strength is going down and even my recovery on and off the climb feels pretty bad. I’ve also been badgered by bad skin that’s taking forever to heal, and when it’s almost perfectly healed, the skin seems to split badly once again. I’ve really been struggling to make sense of it as I’ve been eating very healthily and thought I’d been taking adequate rest, but that might not be true…

Trying hard not to fall off in Joshua Tree mid crux on “The Cutting Edge” (5.13d) – This was the 4th ascent of the iconic line over 30 years since the First Ascent!

After speaking to a bunch of my friends and climbing partners about it, it became apparent that I hadn’t actually had a double rest day in quite some time. I’d been doing 1-day on 1-day off for the last month solid and every session had been either projecting or training or sometimes both! It goes without saying that rest is important and to always listen to your body, but I find it hard to do both when I’m feeling good. It’s only when I’m feeling exhausted that I start to realise that I’ve been pushing too hard, and by then it’s too late.

Another reason why I could be tired is because I’ve been #VanLife for quite a while now. That’s not to say I don’t love van-life and find it super easy, but I think mentally it can be a little draining, always being on the road with no real base. I’ve recently been spending a lot of time at my friends Sam and Marianne’s house in Leeds. There I can have a shower, hang out with them and have a bit of a normal life again. But despite this, I think the ongoing effect of feeling like your always on the road or in someone else’s house can act like a little drip of stress to your daily life. Also, my van is a little small and with all my gear it becomes a bit of a deal to manage everything.

Of course I am looking for answers why I feel like this, and whats most likely is that it’s a combination of lots of things. I’m hoping that I can get some of my energy and power back before I go to the Alps. My plan for the short term is to incorporate some more double rest days into my weeks, continue to project hard climbs but also to mix up with more mileage days, and to keep up my training. I’m also going to make sure that rest days are exactly that, RESTFUL! This is the final month before I leave, so I’m hoping I can rekindle some of the fire and stock up on plenty of fuel for a hard season in the Alps!

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