Let’s be real, we all have those days when we’re tempted to bail on exercise. But most of the time we are able to push past those feelings — by giving ourselves a little pep talk or taking a break.
Fitness burnout, however, is a whole lot different (and more serious) matter. It’s when you continually feel run down. And nothing seems to make that fatigue go away. Or, when you lose interest to the point that workout slips down from your list of top priorities. And you are ready to jump off the proverbial ‘fitness cliff’ (after all, there’s always next year, amirite?)
In order to better understand exercise burnout, let’s dig a little deeper:
What causes fitness burnout?
“Fitness burnout can be caused by two things — overtraining and under-recovery,” says health and wellness expert and entrepreneur, Jillian Michaels. You might also experience it if you don’t switch up your exercise routine often.
Much like workplace burnout, exercise burnout can impact both physical and mental health.
Its physical effects include lethargy, decreased performance, delay in recovery and an overall decline in your fitness progress, among other things. Mentally, it can make you feel utterly bored or drained out. So much so, that you begin to dread working out.
Moreover, “when you exercise too much or too hard you become susceptible to overuse syndrome — which can increase the risk of injury to your joints, ligaments and tendons,” notes Denise Austin, fitness expert, former member of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and author of Fit and Fabulous After 40. “Overuse syndrome can also lead to exhaustion and dehydration, to the point of getting sick,” she adds. This is why following a balanced workout routine is so important.
If you’re unsure whether you’re struggling with workout burnout or not, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I training too much and/or too hard?
- Have I been feeling unusually exhausted or sore lately?
- Has there been a significant decrease in my workout performance lately?
- Do I feel energized or drained out after my sweat sesh?
- Do I have persistent muscle soreness or muscular or joint pain?
- Am I having trouble sleeping? Or, experiencing loss of appetite?
So, how can you prevent fitness burnout?
The first thing to remember is to never force yourself to power through the slump as it’ll only worsen the situation. A fitness routine is supposed to strengthen, energize and empower you not break you down.
To help you out, here are seven simple strategies to tackle fitness burnout:
- Take it slow. If you’re a beginner, trying to do too much, too soon is a recipe for burnout. Start with simpler forms of exercise like walking, jogging, basic yoga poses, lunges or basic weight training. Begin with the lowest set of reps and weights and gradually work your way up to more rigorous workouts. And give yourself at least one day off a week for rest and recovery. In addition, it’s important to set realistic, attainable fitness goals to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on yourself.
- Split your workout wisely. “Schedule your workouts in a way that prioritizes recovery as well as time under tension,” says Michaels who will be one of the guest attendees at the 2019 Wellness Your Way Festival. For optimal results, “train a muscle group only twice a week and rest those muscles for at least two days before you train them again. This can be done by utilizing muscle splits,” she explains. For example, focus on your pull muscles (like back, hamstrings and biceps) twice a week, say on Tuesday and Friday. And then work on your push muscles (such as chest, quads, shoulders and triceps) two times a week, say on Monday and Thursday. Take Wednesday and Sunday off for muscle recovery. And then focus on cardio on Saturday, suggests Michaels.
- Give yourself time to rest and recover. Rest and recovery are an essential part of any fitness routine. “Muscles grow in recovery,” says Erin Oprea, celebrity trainer and author of The 4 x 4 Diet. “Every time you work out, you cause microscopic strain to your muscles. When your body repairs those muscles, it gets stronger,” she explains. This is why giving your body proper fuel and rest for that recovery is absolutely crucial, tells Oprea. Besides, overtraining won’t make your body shed pounds any faster than physiologically possible. In fact, exercising can lead to diminished performance and weight gain. “Think of exercise as the architect and recovery as the contractor,” says Michaels. Any exercise is a form of physical stress. When you take rest, the body adapts to that stress by growing stronger and fitter. Without proper recovery, you just have stress which keeps on building and can lead to serious injuries. “A literal example of this is a stress fracture,” Michaels points out. “We often hear that bone density can be greatly improved through weight training and higher impact fitness. This is because these types of training stress the bone. However, too much stress, without enough healing time, results in a stress fracture,” she tells. Bottom line: Don’t overtrain. And make sure you take two days off every week, Michaels advises.
- Don’t focus too much on the numbers. Setting workout goals helps you stay focused and motivated to stick to your fitness plan. It also gives you a sense of achievement once you accomplish those goals. But always obsessing over the number of reps you did or how many pounds you lost will only make you feel overwhelmed. And disenchanted, if you miss the mark. So, try to focus more on the quality of your workout rather than the quantity. And enjoy what you’re doing. Exercise is supposed to make you feel good!
- Switch things up. Doing the same workout day in and out won’t just make you feel bored but might also lead to exercise plateau. So, what can you do about it? “Simply mix up your fitness routine,” says Michaels. Try different workouts — whether its yoga, barre, pilates, spin, boxing, etc. “And be sure to mix up the number of reps, pounds and exercise type too, in order to freshen up your routine and keep the body progressing with new stimulus,” she adds. In short, “try to keep your workout routine balanced yet challenging,” says Austin. Meanwhile, if you’re already experiencing exercise burnout, “try spicing up the music or a change in the scenery,” suggests Oprea. “Or, grab a workout buddy and turn it into a party!” she adds. And if you need to, “start slower and smaller — and build your way back up to the level you’ve been at,” says Austin. “It’s important not to feel defeated and stop working out altogether. Remember that almost everyone needs to readjust their lifestyles every now and then,” adds the fitness coach who will also be one of the guests at this year’s Wellness Your Way Festival.
- Don’t forget to fuel your body. Austin also advises to eat healthy and stay well-hydrated in order to beat burnout. “If you aren’t refuelling your body after you’re working out, recovery can be much more difficult. This can lead to a less effective workout routine, in the long run, paving the way to a full-blown exercise burnout,” she tells. Here’s a handy guide to help you get post-workout nutrition right. In addition, getting seven to eight hours of restful sleep is equally important for post-workout recovery. This is because deep sleep stimulates the production of somatotropin or the human growth hormone — the hormone responsible for facilitating bone building, fat burning and muscle growth and repair.
- Treat yourself. Besides setting fitness goals, occasionally rewarding yourself is a great way to keep things exciting and stay motivated. Take a long bath, have a relaxing massage, take a nap or buy yourself some cool workout gear! Here are other fun ways to reward yourself after a workout.
Make your workout more enjoyable and effective
The trick to preventing fitness burnout is to create a fitness routine that’s both enjoyable and effective. And how can you do that? With these quick and easy expert-approved tips!
- Do what you love. “The best exercise is the one that you will actually do,” says Oprea. “For example, jumping rope is one of my favorites! It’s great as a total body workout. But, if you don’t enjoy it, you won’t do it,” she tells. Maybe you enjoy swimming, hiking, boxing or Zumba — so do that more often! “There is a whole world of options out there to get you moving. Keep looking until you find one that you enjoy and go with it,” suggests Oprea.
- Mix things up. As mentioned earlier, mixing things up regularly is a simple way to make your workout routine more fun. “It also helps to cut down on soreness that repetition in workouts can lead to,” notes Austin. Plus, “routinely changing things up also makes your workouts more mentally challenging,” she adds. “If you typically go for a daily walk, try adding in a little bit of a light jog or find a route that includes a hill or stairs. Or, if you’ve been using two- or three-pound weights, try five-pound weights. Little challenges like these can really go far in keeping your body and mind engaged,” tells Austin.
- Get a workout buddy. Working out with a fellow fitness enthusiast is also a great way to make exercise more enjoyable. “It can also keep you accountable, so you’re less likely to skip a workout,” Austin points out. Playing sports and joining group workouts are also great ways to stay on track, she suggests.
- Turn up the music. “The music you move to can make all the difference in a workout,” says Oprea. Create a workout playlist that elevates your mood and makes you feel energized, suggests the celebrity trainer. “Podcasts are another motivator,” says Austin. “And if you save them as a treat to listen to only when you exercise, it could be just what you need for encouragement — to lace up those sneakers and get going!” she adds.
- Choose a convenient time of the day. Experts note that the best time to exercise is in the morning. But if that doesn’t work for you, choose a time of the day you can stick with. “Find a time of the day that works best for you, and work it into your schedule,” suggests Austin. “For me, working out in the morning, at my home, is the best way to stick to my fitness routine and enjoy it. It also sets the tone for my day, as I’m more productive and positive once my workout is completed,” says the fitness maven.
So there you have it. Now get your workout gear on, it’s time to break a sweat!