My Case of Burnout as a Former Junior International by Joe Fuggle

Me SM x LS straight face 2

If you know me, you will know I try to be a positive person - easier said than done in 2020! With all that life throws at us we humans have to figure out a way through. Sometimes we can manage this alone but often we could do with a bit of help from others, even if it is just a pointer or kick up the bum. We’ve all been through ups and downs, to some these may be a minor bump in the road but to others, they are something more. I am extremely lucky to have had supportive people around me in both my life and my sport.

Despite having run for GB juniors and England a handful of times in the 400m hurdles, what kept me going in this hard sport was the buzz I got from seeing my friends and especially seeing them succeed. This has been the case since I started in 2011 and always will be. Sport is hard, in a nutshell. To me, you just need to find what makes you happy and keep doing it. I am a firm believer of putting happiness first, whenever possible.

December - 2019

2020 has been a rollercoaster of a year for us all, myself included. My year started coming back to uni after some time at home over Christmas, my training was going great - I was getting over a slight injury but still in arguably some of the best shape of my career. Yet, something was missing. During my time back home I struggled to find the motivation to do much, from training to socialising. I was burnt out. Burnout is definitely one of those things where people think "Nah that won't happen to me" until it does…

To me this was something I was hoping would go away when I got back to Uni and back into training. However, it only got worse. My case of burnout could have been down to a lot of things. Family, personal, academic or even performance/training-related troubles, but to me, it seemed to be a bit of everything. I was finally realising that I actually didn't want to do athletics as a career … this may sound strange to some of you! What brought me joy and happiness now was not performing in front of thousands of people or winning races, but instead making other people happy, helping them along the way and the social benefits of sport.

I left my training group at the start of February despite running a PB in my final race (albeit not a good enough one in my eyes - but that's another story), it was all too much for me. I had a lot going on and I was in dire need of taking a step back. I had developed an imbalance in my life, too much emphasis was being put into certain things and it was largely impacting the other important things in my life. From feeling guilty missing a training session to go and see my loved ones and friends, to no longer doing the things which used to make me happy. I feel that balance is arguably one of the most important things in life and succeeding will be made much easier with it. Importantly, it can help avoid burnout.

Loughborough International - 2017

Taking a break from what I lived and breathed has been the best thing I could have done. When things get too much or aren't quite right you need to create some space, sit back and rationally identify the problem areas. This is sometimes easier said than done, but what I do know is that it’s damn hard to do if you’re still immersed in that world. "Space” often allows you to see through the fog! Everyone's strategy will be different, but if it works for you, it works for you.

At the time of writing this (October), I have trained on a track once since January (I intend to change this!) and that one time was the most fun I have had on a track in as long as I can remember. I did a session with my housemate, (his session was 600m,500m,400m,200m for those wondering), I did 300m,300m,300m,200m, as I was hideously out of shape! The joy it brought me helping him to run a good session was out of this world and it reminded me how much I love the sport, yet showed me that I was currently doing it for the wrong reasons. It is very often the case that people do something because they are good at it or because they don’t want to let people down, without actually enjoying it themselves. To me, life is too short to be doing something that doesn't make you happy, that doesn't make you jump out of bed in the morning. Of course, we may not all be fortunate enough to be in a position where we love everything we do, but that surely has to be the ultimate goal.

Mum and I - 2017

All my life I have been surrounded by family members doing what they love. My parents used to tell me "find something you enjoy, and you will never have to work a day in your life". Doing something you utterly love, that makes you happy will never feel like a job. My mum showed me a Japanese concept called "ikigai", which simply means "reason for being" or "direction or purpose in life" (very spiritual, I know!).

For me, helping people is something that brings me joy and happiness and it is this that has inspired me to create theathleteplace. It ticks every single one of my “ikigai” boxes. My hope is that it will provide a much-needed support platform where athlete’s own experiences can be shared and used to help others facing similar issues. According to the feedback from athletes across many sports, this platform is certainly needed.

Featured Image by Loughborough Sport

My Case of Burnout as a Former International Athlete

Written by Joe Fuggle

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