Summoning motivation for a workout is often seen as a challenge for those new to exercise. But burnout isn’t just a risk for newbies – it can even sneak up on experienced athletes when they least expect it.
The good news is that experts have identified a handful of psychological and physiological causes of burnout, and they’re easy enough to combat. In many cases, battling burnout is a matter of keeping your workouts fun and interesting; qualities necessary for the enjoyment of any endeavor, but especially exercise.
So why does burnout occur in the first place? There are a number of reasons; some that apply to novice exercisers and some that apply to even those with an advanced and regular fitness practice
If you’re a newbie, here are a few reasons you could already be experiencing burn out:
1) You’re trying to do too much too soon. Who hasn’t seen someone (or been someone) who has gone from 0-60 in the exercise department with the hopes of seeing overnight results? The problem here is that drastic behavioral changes are hard to maintain over time, especially if they leave you tired, sore, or injured. As Rob DeStefano, author of Muscle Medicine says, "It's better to do too little in the beginning than too much, so you don't exceed your ability to recover mentally or physically.”
2) You’re expecting to see big results in little time. While it’s undeniable that regular exercise is good for you and carries with it a multitude of health and wellness benefits, it takes your body a while to show the fruits of your labors – which isn’t the most motivating fact ever. In the beginning, build yourself mini-goals that help you focus on the process, not the outcome, like time spent exercising instead of overall pounds or inches lost.
3) You’re bored. I will be the first person to agree that cardio machines are boring. They leave me feeling like a hamster on a wheel, which is why I run outside – even if it’s especially hot or cold, the sights and sounds of the city keep the run interesting. Even if you’re confined to the gym for exercise for various reasons, there are plenty of ways to keep it interesting: change up your machines, classes, even the areas you got to work out.
What if you’re an avid and regular athlete whose finding yourself less than enthused about your workouts? This has happened to me from time to time – I’ll find myself suddenly tired, listless, and wanting to do anything but put my running shoes on. I found that usually this happened when I was in a peak training week for a race, which means I might have been overtraining. Overtraining is pretty self-explanatory – it’s when you’ve pushed your body physically a little too far and not left it enough time to recover in between difficult workouts. Leaving yourself 2-2 recovery days a week is very important to prevent this, as is limiting your vigorous workouts to 2-3 days a week.
To sum it all up: keep it simple, keep it fun, more is NOT always better, and you don’t need to go HAM every single time you exercise. If you apply this to your workouts, you’ll help make sure that they are improving your health and physicality in the way they should.