Like Day Old Donuts – A Dozen (or so) Signs You Might Be Going Stale

Staleness is when you haveSelection Of Doughnuts In A Tray difficulty maintaining your regular training regimen and fail to perform up to your previous levels of achievement. Sometimes this just shows up as a bit of a slump and you find your way out of it after a time. However, staleness, left unchecked can lead to much larger problems.

Staleness is a precursor to burnout. Unfortunately if you don’t notice that you’re getting stale, you can easily find yourself, emotionally, psychologically, and even physically 100% totally drained. For many athletes, this leads them to quit playing their sport permanently.

The good news is that if detected early enough, you can take steps to help avoid experiencing prolonged staleness and burnout. But first things first; here is a list of warning signs and symptoms that are characteristic of staleness and burnout in athletes.

Sleep Disturbances Loss of Self-Confidence
Drowsiness Emotional & Motivational Imbalance
Quarrelsomeness Irritability
Apathy Prolonged Excessive Weariness
Lack of Appetite Fatigue
Depression Anxiety
Anger/Hostility Confusion

There’s quite a number of scary things in that list. Hopefully, you aren’t able to say “That’s me!” to too many of them. If you do notice that several of these staleness signs and symptoms do apply to you and you experience them consistently, it should definitely be brought to the attention of your health care provider.

Staleness Risk Factors (RF)

Now, an ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure so even if you don’t think you are at risk of staleness, you should still be aware of some of the underlying risk factors. Once you get this down, you’ll be able to start planning and problem solving so you can avoid stepping down the path to burnout.

RF1 – Long Training & Competitive Seasons

Longer seasons (most agility is year round now) increase the risk of experiencing staleness.

RF2 – Monotony of Training

Variety is the spice of life and it also keeps you fresh, motivated, and excited to put in the work necessary at practice. Mix up how and what you train. Sometimes something as simple as changing when during the day you train can help break things up.

RF3 – Lack of Positive Reinforcement

We all know how this works with our dogs. It works with us too. I know many agility handlers do significant portions of training alone and this can sap our energy since we don’t get the positive reinforcement we should without a partner or coach to help us out. Make an effort to train at least some of the time where you can both provide and receive some positive reinforcement.

RF4 – Abusiveness from Authority Figures

This seems like common sense but it’s surprising how many athletes will put up with abusive behaviour from a coach or seminar leader because they feel they have to “learn from the best” if they want to keep up. Sad thing is that in the end, this type of experience does more to demoralize and demotivate than to inspire and bring your game to the next level.

RF5 – High Levels of Competitive Stress

Agility has come a long way over the past 20 years. It’s no longer a game you only play in your back yard. There’s regional qualifiers and national championships; money runs; and three different world championships to compete in. Not to mention sponsorships to gain for those performing at the top of the game. Many of these big events happen over a few short months in the summer without much time for rest and recovery. Pressure is everywhere. Overtime, without proper rest, the stress will wear you down. Sometimes to reach higher you need to take a break.

RF6 – Perceived Low Accomplishment

With a strong focus on outcomes and results in North American sports, it’s easy to see how many agility athletes may feel their performances are inadequate. Despite hours upon hours of training, it’s tough to see your 4 year old dog just making it to the masters level while a hot shot 2 year old BC was just named to a World Team. Here is where developing a performance outlook is a key factor in maintaining your enthusiasm for the sport and motivation to keep working.

There are more risk factors related to personality and such but these are the ones that you can readily manage and alter to minimize your risk of becoming stale.

Coming up next post I’ll get into some ideas you can try to help pull yourself out of staleness and back away from burnout. Also, I’ll be giving out some details on my upcoming program The Winning Process 2013. I had a blast teaching it last time and I’m looking forward to sharing it again soon.



Leave A Reply (3 comments so far)

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  1. Jodi altman
    5 years ago

    Thanks John. This is a subject worth talking about and certainly close to my heart. Making changes on perspective and negative history in a sport can take a lot of hard work. I really appreciate you sharing your expertise and insights.

  2. Amanda S
    5 years ago

    Thanks for the reminders… I’m recovering from injury and illness on top of that dog just turning 4… I have to remind myself that breaks are important and a necessary part of development.

  3. Sandy Orr
    5 years ago

    Excellent post John. We lose sight of the fact that it is difficult to peak for everything and when you have just completed a important competition, there very often is a let down or regrouping time that is needed before you prepare for the next event. As you say with the busy schedule now there often isn’t time to go through the process of peaking for the next event. It is fatiguing to stay mentally at the top of your game for a sustained period of successive competitions. Sandy

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