2024 Paris Olympics

How this three-time Olympian and med school student avoids burnout: ‘I recognize the signs'

Kat Holmes has been competing on the international fencing circuit since she was 15.

Elsa | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

Kat Holmes uses a decidedly old school method to track her busy schedule while she simultaneously trains for Paris 2024 and studies in medical school.

The 30-year-old, who has been competing on the international fencing circuit since she was 15, has relied on her trusty paper planner to make sense of full days that involve lectures, workouts, exams and a lot of studying.

"I sit down and I write every single due date as far into the future as I can," she recently told CNBC Make It. "When I'm done, I cross it off and I know I don't have to deal with it."

But despite her best organizational efforts, Holmes says it's impossible to avoid burnout while having such a highly demanding schedule. She has, however, learned from past mistakes to mitigate it as best she can.

"When I was going through my first Olympic cycle [in 2016], I definitely got burnt out. I was going 100% all the time," Holmes, who spoke with CNBC Make It while promoting her partnership with the fitness coaching app Future, said. "Now that I've been competing at this high level for 15 years, I recognize the signs."

When she starts to feel more aches and pains, has trouble sleeping well and doesn't take as much pleasure in the things she usually enjoys, Holmes has learned to allow herself to dial things back.

"I'm better at knowing what I need to do in order to refresh myself," she said. "Sometimes I need to take a week off. I never take a week off of training, but maybe I need to take a week off of fencing, specifically. Maybe I need to do other types of cross training. Maybe it's as simple as needing to go out with friends for a night."

Allowing herself the ability to take a break is helpful in the long run because burnout is "really hard to come back from" when it fully sets in.

Even though she is constantly keeping burnout at bay and sometimes has days where she "hates" having to train and study, Holmes has never considered dropping either of her passions.

"At the end of the day, I love fencing. I really, really do," she said. "I really love being in the hospital and dealing with patients."

"I'm really fortunate," she added, "to not only have found one thing that I feel like that about, but two."

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