Workout Burnout and How to Avoid It

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Plenty of people complain that going to the gym is annoying and exhausting and they’d rather do anything else. And you’ve always disagreed and thought those people were crazy—until recently. You’ve been feeling a little more Workout Burnout sluggish than usual and the thought of hitting the gym makes you yawn and want to get in bed. If you’ve been working out particularly hard recently, you could be on the verge of workout burnout.

Workout burnout is a real thing. And if you’ve been exercising hard for five or more days a week for a while, you’re a prime candidate. It might feel like you’re just not motivated, but if it is burnout, it can mean a serious impact on your mental and physical health. Here are some tips for tweaking your workout routine and preventing workout burnout before it happens to you:

Incorporate active recovery and rest days into your regular routine. If you’re heavy lifting seven days a week, then you’re going to burn out and probably injure yourself as well. Your muscles need time to mend after each workout—so give them time.

Monitor your progress. If you’re not tracking yourself and your workout progress, you’re going to get mentally burnt out. I can be hard to stay motivated if you feel like you’re not getting any closer to your goals. Also be sure to track your resting heart rate. If it is increasing, it could be a sign you’re pushing yourself too hard and triggering a reaction in your sympathetic nerve system.

Mix in fun sessions. We call it the Iron Paradise for a reason, but believe it or not, it can be beneficial to get out of the gym sometimes. Go swimming, hiking or kayaking, play football at the park with some friends or take your dog out for a long walk.

Think about more than just your physical health. Yeah, physical health is important and it’s good to focus on it. But if you’re so focused on your physical health that you end up neglecting mental health, you’re setting yourself up for failure. You know your mind can make your body do anything you tell it to. So you should know your mind can also stop your body from doing anything if your mind isn’t in the right place. Make sure to take some time and check in with yourself each day and make sure your head is in the right place, too.

Exercise should energize you and be enjoyable. If you need a 5-hour nap after your workout or if your workout leaves you feeling angrier or more stressed then when you came into the gym, you’re doing something wrong. Sit down and reevaluate your routine. If you can’t figure out a good way to restructure your routine, talk to a friend or trainer about reworking your workout before you get burnt out.

Habit is good, but when you stick to it like glue, you’re setting yourself up for burnout. Your body adapts to exercise routines after a few months, so make sure you’re constantly mixing up the exercises you do and the intensity level of your workout. If you do the same routine, every day, week after week, it’s only a matter of time before you hit the wall. Be flexible with your routine and you’ll be able to stick with it much longer.

If you’ve noticed yourself becoming annoyed by little things that never bothered you before—machines being taken, unexpected song on your playlist, line at the water fountain—or if you are feeling unmotivated, physically down or less strong, you may already be experiencing burn out.

Most trainers say the best way to recover from workout burnout is to add in an extra day of recovery for every 7-day period you’ve been going hard until you feel back to normal. For example, if you started exercising more intensely than normal a month ago, add in four active recovery days a week, until you feel back to normal. Try swimming, hiking or similar activates. Once you get back into your normal routine, make sure to change the intensity of your workouts from day to day (read: don’t lift heavy multiple days in a row) to make sure you don’t burn out again.

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