Professional triathlete Lionel Sanders on overtraining, burnout and balancing rest days

Lionel Sanders reveals his plans for the upcoming month and what he is focusing on in racing right now.

Staff Reporter
Last updated -

During a professional career spanning over a decade, Canadian triathlete Lionel Sanders has continuously shared the trials and tribulations of life as a professional triathlete in great detail.

In his most recent YouTube video, the Windsor native shared some thoughts on overtraining and burnout, two major pitfalls for both amateur and professional triathletes.

Ahead of his first race of the season at IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside, the two-time IRONMAN World Championship runner-up revealed how he is managing his down time.

“Zeros are important every now and again”

Discussing days off training, or ‘zeros’, Sanders said that his attitude towards rest days has changed, as they have become more infrequent, but also better scheduled, in his current training programme.

ST GEORGE, UTAH - MAY 07: Lionel Sanders of Canada reacts as he approaches the finish line to place second during the 2021 IRONMAN World Championships on May 07, 2022 in St George, Utah. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for IRONMAN)
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for IRONMAN

“In the past I used to take a complete off day. If I look in my training log, I did an analysis of my entire logged training career, and I’ve got a lot of zeros in there.

“Don’t get me wrong, zeros are important every now and then. But logging zeros frequently, I’m not sure if that’s going to get you up to the top level, so it’s a balancing act for sure.

“One thing I have definitely become aware of is that there is a difference between burnout and overtraining. Overtraining is a physical thing, burnout is a mental thing, so you have to guard against both for certain.”


“I always use swimming as a gauge”

To assess how well he is avoiding overtraining and burnout, the 36-year-old uses his pool workouts, which as a weak swimmer, serve as strong indicators of fatigue.

“Physically right now, I feel great and swimming is a great indicator. My top end is a little blunted, which is an indicator that you are carrying fatigue, but today we did quite a few tight pace timed reps and if you’re overtrained you will fail because you’re so tired as a weak swimmer.

“I always use swimming as a gauge of physical stress, but burnout is knocking on the door and that is where the zeros come in sometimes.

“I am trying to find a way to manage psychological burnout, because you need to train a lot if you want to become the best in the world, but you have to manage that with burnout.

“In the swim in particular, you have to come in mentally wanting to train. I don’t think you can make progress if you come in with drudgery. Coming in really wanting to do it is the right path and the right method, but it’s a work in progress.” 

Sanders revealed that his short-term solution is to keep the load low on Sundays, with the occasional day off, so that he can start the week raring to go ahead of his first two races of the season at IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside and IRONMAN 70.3 St George.

Tomos Land
Written by
Tomos Land
Tomos Land is a triathlon & running journalist whose expertise lies in the professional world of short course & long distance triathlon, though he also boasts an extensive knowledge of ultra-running.
Discover more
T100 Singapore Age Group bike course
Ultimate sightseeing – the must-do city centre triathlons
TRI-FIT Geo Coral women's tri suit
TRI-FIT GEO Women’s Tri Suit Review – How does it fare in our quest for the ultimate long course kit?
Jonny Brownlee swim pool neom 2022 Photo Bartlomiej Zborowski Superleague Triathlon
Jonny Brownlee on the pool swimming drills to do now to get faster in open water
sebastien kienle at challenge st polten
Let’s race… Challenge St Pölten
Fanni Szalai Arena Games Sursee 2023 photo credit Darren Wheeler That Cameraman SLT
supertri E next gen talent – meet the 6 future superstars to watch in London
latest News
Youri Keulen wins Singapore t100 2024 photo credit PTO
Singapore T100 Men’s Results: Wildcard wonder Youri Keulen takes mesmerizing victory
Collins Cup 2022 Sam Laidlow photo credit Darren Wheeler and PTO
IRONMAN World Champion Sam Laidlow drops out of the Singapore T100
Lucy Buckingham t100 Singapore 2024 run finish photo credit PTO
Lucy Buckingham on battling the heat in Singapore for top-five T100 finish
Els Visser t100 Singapore 2024 run finish photo credit PTO
Shipwreck survivor Els Visser inspired by Sam Long and Lionel Sanders’ swim battles
Ashleigh Gentle Lucy Charles Barclay t100 Singapore 2024 run finish photo credit PTO
Singapore T100 Triathlon World Tour results: Full finishing order and times as Gentle beats Charles-Barclay
triathlon on your terms
Never miss out with our triathlon alerts & digest. Get a dose of adventure & inspiration with Boundless.
Invalid email address
The SBRX Group

Proudly elevating endurance sports through content, products & services

Share to...