10 ways to avoid exercise burnout | Blackmores

10 ways to avoid exercise burnout

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Keep your workout routine fresh by following these tips from exercise physiologist Andrew Cate.

What is exercise burnout?

Regular exercise is the key to good health, but the body can only take so much. There comes a point where the physical and mental stress can trigger a range of symptoms such as fatigue and soreness, along with exhaustion and poor performance. 

Over-training is a term often used to describe a physical overload, while burnout is thought of as a motivational plunge – a form of psychological stress. It’s not to suggest exercise burnout doesn’t have a physical component, but it’s not as prevalent as over-training (more common in elite athletes and distance runners). 

Here are 10 simple strategies you can adopt to prevent exercise burnout, and stay on track with your training routine.

1. Go easy if you’re just starting out

When you start a new routine of exercise, it’s common for people to start out at maximum intensity due to a strong desire for instant results. 

But this can trigger soreness, injury, and a rapid fall in motivation when the initial enthusiasm drops off. Don’t go too hard too early.

2. Change things up - regularly

It will be much easier to stay motivated if you constantly vary the type, intensity and duration of your activities. 

You can also train at different locations, at different times of the day, and alternate between different training partners. Even try a completely new activity once in a while to maintain enthusiasm.

3. Set realistic goals

Unrealistic goals are a common trigger for exercise burnout. It’s hard to stay motivated to exercise when your expectations of dramatic results have not been met. Instead, focus on the long term, and look towards gradual improvement. 

4. Make time for recovery

Just as your body needs time to recover from exercise, so does your mind. Aim for 1-2 rest days each week to prevent exercise feeling like a burden. 

This is especially important after days when you have trained intensely. Indulge in activities that help you relax, which acts as a mental escape from the ongoing commitment of training. 

5. Love what you do

Include fun and social elements to your fitness routine, such as team sports, bushwalking with your partner, or training with friends. 

When exercise feels like something you really want to do, low motivation and burnout will not be an issue.
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6. Listen to your body

Moderation is a key to success in fitness and health, and there are times when you need to take a step back. 

Make it a rule to give your body rest when you are either sick, or recovering from injury. What may seem like a step backwards can actually help your body and mind regenerate, and keep you on track

7. Focus on all aspects of fitness

A well rounded training routine should focus on all aspects of fitness. Even if you are training for a specific event you should mix it up.

Includes activities that boost cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, and balance core stability. The broader your base of fitness, the more energised your mind and body will feel.

8. Keep track of your training

Keep a detailed log of your training, noting the type, intensity and duration of your training. Include a rating of how you feel before and afterwards, and note down any rest days. This can help to reveal patterns in performance and highlight any potential overload.

9. Eat and sleep well

Adequate sleep and proper nutrition should be a priority to help your body and mind function at its best. 

Aim for 8 hours of quality sleep each night to allow the body to repair and restore itself. In addition, load up on high nutrient fruits, vegetables, plant fats and lean protein sources to fuel your training and recovery.

10. Enlist expert help

If you have a history of exercise burnout, or just struggle to stay motivated, it may help to consult with a personal trainer. 

They can map out a training schedule which includes activities you enjoy, helping to reach your goals and maintain interest along the way. The variety and sense of commitment you get from a trainer can also be a motivational boost.