Some days, hitting the gym just isn’t in the cards for you. Your comfy bed trumps the alarm going off for your usual morning workout. Or after a long day at the office, coming home and relaxing on the couch sounds a whole lot better than getting a workout in.
Skipping the gym happens to even the most dedicated workout warriors. But if heading to the gym becomes a constant drag (and one you can’t seem to shake no matter what you try), then you could be experiencing exercise burnout.
You might be thinking to yourself — “Well, how do I overcome exercise burnout?”
And we’ve got the answers, so let’s dive in!
Why Do People Get Exercise Burnout?
Exercise burnout can occur for a variety of reasons, such as:
- Maybe you’re overtraining or pushing too hard in the gym.
- Your workouts lack variety and you’ve become bored with them.
- Under-recovery in between workouts can lead to low energy, feelings of fatigue, and mental drain.
What Does Workout Burnout Feel Like?
Exercise burnout can impact you both physically and mentally. You might become just fed up and tired of working out. Your body feels fatigued and you notice a decrease in workout performance.
On the mental side of things, exercise burnout puts a real strain on your psyche. You dread the gym and just the mere thought of getting a workout in sends chills down your spine.
Here are some signs of exercise burnout in more detail you might experience:
Finding every excuse to skip your workouts
Probably the most glaring symptom of exercise burnout is ditching the gym. But even deeper than that are the excuses you make to avoid it.
“I forgot my headphones at home.”
“I left my water bottle at work.”
“I really should go home and let the dog out first.”
Be honest with yourself — Do you find yourself making up excuses for why you should skip the gym? That could be an indication of exercise burnout.
It’s okay to feel tired and have low motivation sometimes, but when you’re constantly feeling drained and going to the gym becomes the ultimate chore, this points to exercise burnout.
The fatigue you experience will likely be both physical and mental. Your mind feels overwhelmed and exhausted by the gym, and your body does too.
You become a real Oscar the Grouch
When you’re burnt out and overwhelmed, how does that make you feel? For a lot of people out there, they become more stressed, irritable, and on-edge.
And prolonged stress can actually make you feel more tired and have less energy.
Body aches, pains, and soreness
Being more sore than normal after your workouts, or aches and pains that just won’t seem to go away, is your body’s way of saying that it’s time to pump the brakes and start incorporating more rest and recovery into your routine.
Not Sure if It’s Exercise Burnout?
If you’re having a hard time determining whether or not you’re experiencing exercise burnout, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Am I pushing myself too hard in the gym or working out too much?
- How’s my mood? Am I more irritable than normal?
- Have I seen a big dip in my gym performance lately?
- Do I feel reinvigorated coming out of my workouts? Or am I tired and feel like sinking into the couch for the rest of the day?
- Am I experiencing any muscle soreness or aches and pains that won’t go away?
How to Prevent Exercise Burnout
Exercise burnout doesn’t have to be permanent, so don’t be discouraged if you’re feeling a little burnt out on the gym. In the sections below, we’ve outlined 6 easy-to-implement strategies for you on how to avoid exercise burnout.
1. Plan some deload weeks into your routine
Planning ahead and programming deload weeks into your routine can help you nip exercise burnout in the bud before it rears its ugly head. Aim for having a deload week or two every 4-6 weeks.
By deload, that simply means scaling back your workout routine. For example:
- Cut back on the number of sets/reps your normally perform with your strength training routine. Or, you can take a break from the major compound lifts and focus on lifting lighter weights with proper form.
- Take a week or two every so often where you reduce your running volume or intesnity. This could be decreasing the actual distance you run, or running at a slower tempo.
- Take a break from your typical hot yoga sessions and go for a walk instead.
By giving your body a break from your normal routine every so often, it allows you to recharge and avoid exercise burnout.
2. Switch up your workouts
Doing the same workout time after time can get stale real quick. So not only is it boring, but when you lose excitement for your workouts, it can lead to exercise burnout and plateaus.
Try adding some variety to things and switching up your workouts. There are so many different workouts to try out there—strength training, yoga, pilates, HIIT, boxing, spin, CrossFit, etc. The list goes on and on.
This primarily applies to strength training but within your workouts, make sure you’re switching up the number of sets, reps, the weight you use, and exercises you do. This’ll keep things fresh and provide your body with an incentive to keep growing and progressing.
3. Get a change of scenery
Try a new gym. Enroll in a new workout class you’ve always wanted to try. Go on a different hiking or walking trail. Sometimes, just seeing something new and being surrounded by a different environment can give you new energy and a sense of purpose.
When you change up your environment, it pulls you out of the “same old thing” mindset you’ve grown accustomed to and puts you in a new environment where you’re motivated to tackle what’s ahead, almost like you’re on a new adventure.
4. Find a workout partner
If you’re someone who likes social interaction, then finding a workout partner might be beneficial. Working out with someone can help you stay accountable with your workouts. You won’t want to skip and leave your partner by themselves in the gym!
Consider signing up for a group fitness class or joining an intramural sports league in your area.
5. Focus more on rest and recovery
Your recovery is just as important, if not more important, than the actual workout itself. It might sound crazy but your muscles actually grow during recovery, not while you’re working out. And more isn’t always better, especially when it comes to exercise.
So if you’re not allowing your body to rest and recover, not only does it increase your chances of experiencing exercise burnout, but you won’t be getting all you can out of your workouts.
What are some keys to rest and recovery? Here’s a quick checklist:
- Make sure your diet includes plenty of lean protein sources, complex carbs, and healthy fats. Protein is especially important for helping your body repair damaged muscle fibers and bouncing back in between workouts. If you’re looking for an easy way to hit your protein goals, try our 100% certified grass-fed Whey Fantastic protein powder. Curious about the benefits of going grass-fed with your protein powder? You can read more here!
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate pre and post-workout. Drinking water prevents lactic acid buildup (main culprit of muscle soreness) and can help you avoid muscle cramps.
- Get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. When you sleep, your body produces growth hormone, so if you’re looking for ways to burn fat, build muscle, and help your body operate efficiently, sleep and growth hormone are key.
- Research shows that active recovery can help relieve muscle soreness, so utilize active recovery techniques such as massage, foam rolling, ice baths, saunas, and cryotherapy.
6. Reward yourself
When you hit your fitness goals, celebrate! It doesn’t matter if the goal is big or small, acknowledging your accomplishments is a great way to stay motivated and on the path to consistently crushing your goals.
You can reward yourself by investing in some new workout clothes (which is a double reward because you’ll be stylish while getting fit), plan a day where you binge a new TV show, or treat yourself to a new meal at that restaurant that just opened nearby.
Use These Tips to Overcome Exercise Burnout
Next time exercise burnout starts creeping into your life, you have more than enough strategies to give it the boot!
To summarize, here’s what you can do to burst the exercise burnout bubble:
- Incorporate deload weeks into your routine where you decrease workout volume
- Keep things fresh by trying different workouts
- Treat fitness like an adventure and switch up the scenery
- For better recovery, eat a balanced diet, hydrate, get enough sleep, and engage in active recovery methods like foam rolling, saunas, and cryotherapy.
- Reward yourself for reaching your fitness goals
About the Author:
Chad Richardson is a freelance writer from Cincinnati, OH. He enjoys creating content that helps people get in shape and live healthier lives. When he’s not behind his computer, you can find Chad at the gym making ugly workout faces, creating a new playlist on Spotify, or watching his hometown sports teams. He likes to pretend they’ll play better if he yells at the TV.