Beating burnout

[notice]A monthly Christian sport column by Cobus Kruger, a professional triathlete who is passionate about evangelism, leadership and community development through sport.[/notice]

Burnout is a term most sports people know and want to avoid, but sometimes the unavoidable happens and one hits the dreaded burnout state.  At that time questions will be asked:  “What did I do wrong?”, and “Why did this happen?”  The problem comes with the desire to compete all over the world and ultimately to win. Years ago, before sport became a profession, an athlete would race in the summer and build base during the winter. Nowadays an athlete will race during the summer in South Africa and then he or she will travel to Europe during the South African winter to compete over there during their summer.  When keeping on with all the racing and training without proper management a state of burnout is almost inevitable.

God knows that man can fall easily into a state of burnout and therefore, I believe, He gave us the principle of six days work and the 7th day to rest.  Although I feel that we need to look at this principle in freedom through Jesus Christ and not legalistically about which day to rest, it’s important that we have a complete day of rest each week in order to avoid burnout. It’s a Godly principle.

Sometimes ambitions and dreams overwhelm the principles and structures that are set out.  It happened with me in one of my training and racing seasons.  The structure was to train hard for three weeks and to have the next week easy.  I failed to take my easy week for months and yes, you guessed right, not long afterwards I experienced burnout…

The question now is:  “How can burnout be avoided?’”

A few things need to be kept in mind in order to avoid burnout — in sport and in life.  Let’s take a look at them:

Have a vision and dream:

John Maxwell.
John Maxwell.

A vision or dream, a goal, a purpose. You should realise that God called you for greatness and you should get this Godly vision or dream from God Himself. The vision and dream will help you to stay focused on what is necessary, will help you to avoid taking on too much at a time and will in the end  help to avoid burnout.  In John Maxwell’s book “Developing the Leader Within You”, Maxwell states four vision levels of people:

  1. Some people never see the vision. They are WANDERERS.
  2. Some people see it but never pursue it on their own. They are FOLLOWERS.
  3. Some people see it and pursue it. They are ACHIEVERS.
  4. Some people see it and pursue it and help others to see it. They are LEADERS.

How do you see yourself? Which one are you?  In some way we are all leaders.  God has given each of us opportunities to influence those around us and lead them closer to Himself. Decide on what vision level you are on, and go and sit at the feet of Jesus so that He can mould and shape or change the vision/ dream He gave you.

Have a plan:

There is a famous quote: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” This is so true.  Proper planning can help you to avoid burnout.  By planning one can ensure that the proper time can be set out for the vision/dream and goal and thus using that time to be fruitful and not just busy. Joyce Meyer explains it so nicely.  She says that God never called believers to be busy — He called believers to be fruitful. I agree with her and I believe the reason that a lot of people are burning out in life is because they are running around and are busy with things that fall outside the plan and their Godly vision, dream and purpose.

Stick to the plan:

Our plan should always be put into action. I love the scripture in James 2:14: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?”

If you have faith in God to accomplish your Godly vision and dream, the action part must start to happen and one should stick to that plan on a day to day basis. It’s important to know when to say no to things that will take one away from the plan.


 I love the story in the Bible where Jesus was sleeping in the storm. (Mathew 8:23-26). Even Jesus rested. The same way we should rest. If you look at the physiology of the body you will find that muscle is built by the recovery of the broken down muscle. An Olympian athlete friend of mine always says the secret to training and racing well is not the hard training sessions, but the resting period that you take before the next hard session. It is so true — if you keep on breaking down the muscle without giving it proper time to recover, you will be on the road to burnout and you won’t get to experience the fruit you should actually get from your efforts. It’s good for pro-athletes to use the EPOC ( excess post- exercise consumption) counting on a heart rate monitor to ensure the correct amount of hours to rest after a hard training session before taking on the next session.

Also very important is to set out time to rest in God. Just as Jesus spent time with Father God so should we make time to spend with Him on a daily basis using our own pathway:  some will spend this time walking in a field, others while doing a long bike ride, others maybe quietly in their inner room.  What approach you take doesn’t matter as long as you spend this time with and resting in God.

You also need to have rest time to spend with your family and time for yourself.  It’s not wrong to take a break with family.  We need this time to avoid burnout and by doing that one can be more effective in training, work and ministry over a longer period of time. Remember, it is sometimes not how fast you get to the vision, but how far you will go with it for the Glory of God. If you want to go far with it, then you need to avoid burnout.  Don’t feel guilty about resting. 

Eat right:

Frankie Fredericks.
Frankie Fredericks.

Frankie Fredericks from Namibia, one of the legends of sprinting, with a track record for winning silver medals at the 1992 Barcelona and the 1996 Atlanta Olympic games in the 100 and 200m sprint, and the 200 World champion in 1993 and indoor world champion in 1999 and more, made a profound statement once when they asked him about the eating habits of a pro athlete. He said: “Your body is like a Ferrari; what you put in, is what you are going to get out.”  What you drink and what you eat during and after training effects your performance and energy levels during training as well as in racing. Good 4 Phase carbs before and during training sessions will provide you with the energy you need.  Good protein after training will assist in repairing the broken down muscles to achieve a good recovery. Eating correctly will help in avoiding burnout. Being healthy is thus important for putting the plan into action and later on to reach our vision for the glory of God. We should also eat the right food for a healthy spirit and mind as well:  food for the Spirit is to work on building that living relationship with God — a two way relationship — sharing with God and hearing from Him. Also to be empowered by the Holy Spirit every day. Food for the mind goes hand in hand with Romans 12:2 – the importance of renewing the mind in the way of the Lord.  Reading the scripture and filling our minds with the truth of God and not with the lies that media, culture and unbelievers around us set out there.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Rom 12:2

Get the right food in for the mind and spirit and body to avoid burnout.


God made us body, mind and spirit. The problem is most people with ambition and dreams don’t find a way to keep these three components in balance. You won’t believe how many people say to me that it is not possible to be a pro sportsman and have a healthy marriage, a good relationship with God and a life that is a good example to others. I believe the contrary — that the Lord formed us as human beings to glorify Him in all the aspects of life — to be the best we can be in all these aspects of our life. God created us in His image, so we are created to create and be the best we can be in the balance of our body, mind and spirit as God created us.

The prime colours that form light are blue, red and green. To get perfect light, all three of these colours should stay in equal balance. I believe that God calls us to be the perfect light in this dark world and that we should stay in perfect balance body, mind and spirit.  Doing this will assist in avoiding burnout.

So let’s get the vision, formulate a plan, put the plan into action, avoid deviating from it, feed our body, mind and spirit with healthy food and truth and keep a balanced life to avoid burnout.  Be the best that you can be for the Glory of our Father in heaven through the Spirit in Jesus Christ

My Program Generator (MPG) fitness training with Cobus Kruger

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  1. Great boodskap Cobus. Sien uit na n lang pad saam met jou.

  2. Great article

  3. nice message Cobus,ican learn a lot from it

  4. Baie goeie artikel Cobus. Trots op jou!