Burnout: How To Avoid It While Pursuing Your Goals

Got goals? Let’s talk about burnout.

I know you understand what burnout is, because I’m quite sure you’ve experienced it in life. Overworked at your job, under pressure to manage your household while still running a business, trying to juggle relationships, responsibilities, and your health – it can all become overwhelming. In fact, I bet you probably end some weeks shouting – I need a vacation!

I hear you. I truly do. I’ve uttered those four words a million times.

So, let’s talk about burnout when it comes to your fitness goals, because I see it frequently – and I’ve experienced it myself a time or two.

Beginners all the way to seasoned pros are susceptible to burnout when it comes to exercise. I especially witness this seasonally – either at the beginning of the New Year or right around bikini season – when women are pumped up to put their intentions into motion and they hit it too hard. On the flip side I’ve been guilty of training too hard and ending up with an injury or feeling physically & emotionally drained. The bottom line: too much exercise combined with too little recovery can derail your efforts.

As a competitive athlete, I’ve always struggled with recovery. But I’ve learned over the years that without it, I don’t get faster, stronger or fit without it. Our bodies need time to repair muscles and prepare for future workouts by storing food. We do ourselves (and our bodies) a disservice when we cut out recovery from our routine – because our muscles breakdown & don’t have time to rebuild. Plus, we can become emotionally drained. Without recovery we can take a nosedive right into burnout – which ultimately leads to a delay in reaching goals.   

You might be standing toe-to-toe with burnout if you experience any of the following:

Muscle soreness & persistent fatigue. This is normal following a tough workout or for newbies a couple of weeks as your body adapts - but if it lasts longer than that it probably means you are overdoing it. Generally, exercise should build strength & endurance, not the other way around.

Low energy. Exercise should make you feel good, not bad. In addition, if it’s zapping your energy to the point of altering your mood or you find yourself obsessing over it – it might be time to ease up.

Overuse injuries. Usually when someone is hitting the pavement too much or doing the same workouts over and over again – without recovery – injury follows. If you find yourself getting sidelined after a few weeks of training, you need to check yourself – are you incorporating rest days? Are you balancing high intensity days with low intensity days? Some people can go hard longer than others, and other people need to incorporate more gentle movement into their fitness routine to avoid injury.

Lack of motivation. This falls in line with low energy – if you’ve found that you can no longer get yourself out of bed to hit the gym like you did at the beginning, you might want to dial it down or change it up. Finding a sustainable plan for your goals that incorporates variety and helps you hit milestones will help keep you motivated for the long-term.  

I know what you are thinking; I’ve been there. You might be afraid that if you take a day off you will either lose momentum or fall into a pattern of skipping workouts more regularly. The truth is, you are more likely to fall off the “workout wagon” if you don’t provide yourself with rest because you will end up burning yourself out, or worse – getting injured. Being strategic about your workout program so that it is sustainable, yet effective, is key to your own personal success and health.

Here are a handful of ways you can avoid burnout + focus on recovery:

Implement rest days. If you are a beginner, or have taken a lot of time off and have now started up again – you’ll need 1-2 rest days per week. This doesn’t mean you have to lie in bed all day, so if you are antsy to move a bit on these days, do an active recovery. Strength training also requires strategy as it relates to recovery, as you’ll want to give specific muscle groups time to rest before pushing them again. So, if you find yourself doing a lot of lifting, make sure you alternate muscle groups to ensure proper rest.

Vary workouts. This applies to both anaerobic & strength training workouts alike. By mixing up intensity, playing with intervals & speed, and increasing resistance – you’ll avoid plateau. This is why personal trainers adding variety to your workouts, as not only does it boost metabolism but it also ensures you’re your strength and endurance will grow. By keeping exercises effective, you’ll also prevent burnout and boredom - which could lead to a loss of motivation.

Focus on fuel. Depending on the type of workout you do, making sure you provide your body with the proper nutrients following a sweat session is key to recovery and future workout performance. For example, if you do lift heavy in the morning, it’s a good idea to follow that workout with a meal that includes proteins and carbs. Stock up on whole foods, quality proteins and lots of good fats so you can ensure you have the right recovery fuel to keep your body (and momentum) going.

Catch some z’s. Sleep is vital for recovery, just as it is important for your daily productivity. If you aren’t getting adequate sleep, or it’s a restless sleep, than not only will it affect your recovery but it will hinder your workout the following day. Everyone has a different sleep requirement to be on the top of his or her game each day – figure out what that number is for you and stick to it. And, if you are feeling especially tired from a long day or a tough workout – listen to your body and get the extra rest.

Are you struggling with burnout? Or do you have trouble figuring out how to balance high intensity workouts with low intensity training? Please share your experiences below!