I’m no professional distance racer, but I am aware of a concept that I think applies to us all in business.
It’s a concept called “bonking out”.
Bonking is a common term for the functional depletion of glycogen, brought on by exercise. In other words, it’s the condition in which your muscles run out of fuel, with profound effects on performance and well-being. [Source]
With long-distance running, the key is to go as fast as you reasonably can without going over your “red line” and bonking out.
Your red line is that place where you’re pushing deep into your reserves to gain a little extra speed to put you in a better spot.
It’s that level where you can’t talk while you run. You’re in an anaerobic state (without oxygen). You can do that for a while, but you can’t sustain it. And once you burn through your reserves, it’s extremely hard to tap into them again later in the race—they’re depleted after all!
The issue is, if you start “red-lining” too early, you risk bonking out early.
You can push things a little, sometimes easing over that red line. But once you burn through your reserves, they’re gone.
It’s similar in business when it comes to burnout. You can push for a long time without burning out. But eventually, you begin to see the signs.
Maybe it affects your sleep. Or your stress levels. Or you start dropping balls. Or sabotaging your own efforts.
If you’re not careful, you won’t want to do anything related to your business. And that’s a problem.
So what do you do if you’re on the verge of burnout?
Back off your commitments. Do less for a while.
But because you’re a type-A, that’s precisely the hardest thing you can do. It’s also the most important.
The way you succeed in business is by staying in it. You can’t win if you’re not in the race.
And the thing about burnout is that it will take you out of the game if you’re not careful. And it’s super hard to come back when you do.
Use the throttle.
Ease off before things get bad. When you need to rest, rest. Everything I’ve learned about peak performance is that to operate at the highest level, you also need to recharge.
There comes a time when pushing through burnout and ignoring the signals will not only affect your health and relationships, it may also take you out of the game.
You may have a high threshold—and you can work a lot harder than most people think. But if you never take time to actively recharge, it’s a matter of time before you burn the wicks completely and bonk out.
You’ll want to do something else. Game over.
Don’t bonk out. Keep some fuel in your reserves at all times.
P.S. In case you missed it, here’s the latest episode of Mindshare Radio, What to Do if Nobody is Buying Your Productized Service.