Avoiding Burnout

August 12, 2014

By: Lacey Thacker

It can be a problem for both seasoned and new gym-goers—burnout. Whether you’ve been working out for a long time with few or no breaks, or recently began a fitness routine, it’s easy to let yourself hit this mental—and often physical—plateau. One of the biggest problems with burnout is that once it happens, it can take a long time to recover, whereas if it had simply been prevented, the time it took from your workout routine would have been healthy and beneficial.

It’s important to realize burnout isn’t just about the body getting tired. While slower recovery is a sign of burnout, the truth is that it begins in the mind. You begin your routine, so excited you don’t want to miss a day. A few weeks or months later, you start getting bored, you’re not seeing as many results, you’re tired—whatever. To keep the mind engaged, and to see more results, realize it’s important to change your routine on a regular basis—your mind will be happier (and therefore entertained) with the variation, and your body won’t have a chance to become accustomed to the movements, thus keeping your workouts as effective as possible.

In addition to variation, it’s important to take breaks. If you’ve been working out for weeks or months without frequent breaks—perhaps even working out seven days a week—you’re susceptible to burnout. You may find yourself struggling mentally with getting yourself to the club, or maybe you’ve noticed you are not recovering or advancing as quickly as you once did. To prevent this, and thus prevent an unintentional quitting of your regular movement, realize that not only is it okay to take regular breaks, it’s even healthy to take several days off in a row on occasion. A break from the gym can keep you from getting in a rut mentally, and you will likely discover once you return that your recovery periods are shorter. Sometimes, the body just needs a day or two off.

Many who are just beginning to workout tend to jump in all at once, working out four to five days per week. Some sustain this, but many do not. A trick I’ve suggested to people seems to offer good results: instead of jumping in with both feet, start small. Instead of aiming for five days per week immediately out of the gate, try for once the first week you join the gym, twice the second week, and so on until you achieve the desired amount of workouts per week. Slowly working into your new habit will help it stick, help keep you from burning out on your new habit, and ensure your body is getting adequate recovery periods. And, once you’re a long-term gym-goer, you’ll have healthy rest habits.

So, hit the gym, hydrate, eat well, change your routine regularly, and make sure to give your mind and body a rest now and then.