Fighting Burnout at the Gym & Work
If you’re an avid gym-goer, you may have experienced burnout at one point or another. This is a common feeling, and even the most experienced athletes can experience it from time to time. Burnout can manifest in both physical and mental signs, which can include chronic fatigue, loss of motivation, and difficulty concentrating.
The goal is to acknowledge that burnout is happening, what could be causing it, and work to rebalance yourself to recover. Let's start with the symptoms to identify when you may be close to burnout.
The first and most important part of recovering or avoiding burnout is recognizing the symptoms. However, burnout may not be as easy to spot in every content.
In the workplace, common symptoms of burnout include feeling overwhelmed, difficulty focusing, lack of motivation, fatigue, irritability, and difficulty getting along with colleagues.
In the gym, burnout can be experienced through a lack of enjoyment in exercise, a decrease in performance, changes in appetite, and a feeling of being unmotivated to exercise.
CAUSES Step #2 in the recovery process is understanding what could be causing your burnout. While each of our situations is unique to us, there are commonalities in what is likely leading to your fatigue.
Workplace burnout usually manifests as a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. Common causes of workplace burnout include:
Unrealistic expectations and workload: Having too much work to do in too little time can lead to feelings of frustration and overwhelm.
Lack of job satisfaction: Doing a job that is not fulfilling or that does not provide any sense of purpose can lead to burnout, as you typically feel like your work isn't meaningful or leading to something better.
Poor work/life balance: Having to work long hours with no time for leisure activities is a recipe for burnout as well. Much like resting from your workouts, make sure you're scheduling time for your hobbies and for yourself. Work is important, but not more important than your well-being.
Unclear job roles and responsibilities: Having unclear expectations or objectives can lead to confusion and stress.
Lack of support: Not having adequate support from colleagues or superiors can be taxing in the workplace, especially when you're new or learning.
Unhealthy workplace culture: Being in an environment where there is a lack of trust, respect, and support can be unhealthy for you and the others involved. Spending more time than necessary in a workplace like this will burn you out, regardless of the type of work or purpose behind it.
Inadequate rewards: You may not be motivated by your take-home pay or your title, but not receiving any rewards for your hard work can be tough too, especially if you feel like you're doing a good job or working hard but not receiving any recognition for it.
Fitness burnout is a common occurrence for many people who are trying to stay active and in shape. Common causes of fitness burnout can include:
Doing the same workout routine, day after day: Changing up your routine can help you stay motivated and interested in your fitness program. Even changing your routine every few weeks to include new exercises or variations of your favorites can help.
Not seeing any progress: If you're not seeing any progress in terms of weight loss or muscle gain, it can be easy to become discouraged and give up. This may be another indicator that you need to change your routine or alter your nutrition plan to align better with your goals.
Too much too soon: Pushing yourself too hard, too quickly can lead to burnout and injury. This often happens for a newer gym-goer who is eager to see results or get back into the swing of things. It has happened to most of us at one time or another, so don't feel discouraged!
Lack of motivation: If you're not feeling motivated to exercise, it's easy to become burnt out. Motivation will come and go, and having the discipline to continue will be where you get results, but when you combine a lack of motivation with complete burnout, it can be detrimental to your overall health.
Unattainable goals: Setting unrealistic goals can be a surefire way to get burnt out. Instead, set a goal that is still challenging, but can still be attained with reasonable effort.
Not getting enough rest or recovery: Rest and recovery are essential for any fitness routine, and not allowing your body to rest or recover properly through stretching, warmups and cooldowns, or even days off from working out can quickly lead to gym burnout.
HOW TO RECOVER If you’re feeling the effects of gym burnout, it’s important to take the time to rest and recover. This doesn't necessarily mean taking a week off from the gym, but allowing your body the time it needs to recover is important. Try working that recovery process into your routines going forward to avoid gym burnout, including adding in more stretching or cool-down sessions after your lift or class.
If you're recovering from burnout, take some time to focus on other activities such as reading, going for walks, or simply relaxing. Walks and playing outside are great ways to still stay active while also giving your body a chance to recover from any heavy lifting or classes you may be used to doing.
If you're looking to get out of the gym and get outside for some active recovery, here's a list of Easy Ways to Stay Active Outdoors!
AVOIDING BURNOUT Burnout is taxing on your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. The goal is obviously to prevent it, but that's not always possible with all that life may throw at us. Here are a few tips to help avoid burnout in the gym!
REST AND RECOVER
Rest and recovery are an important part of both life and fitness! Try incorporating active or dynamic stretching before your workout, static stretching or a cool down after your workout, and plenty of active/passive recovery when you're not in the gym to give your body adequate time to recover from your time in the gym.
When considering recovery in your workout routine, here are 5 Common Recovery Mistakes to avoid!
START SLOW & WORK YOUR WAY UP
This is more prevalent among gym newcomers, but starting too fast can lead to rapid burnout. Start small with a lighter workload (via rep ranges, number of sets, or the weights you use) to give your body a chance to acclimate to the work. Once you're more comfortable with the exercises, increase your load.
REFRESH YOUR ROUTINE
Our body adapts to the stress and workouts we put it through. Try changing workouts, machines, or even the order of your workout to give your muscles something new!
Sleep is the most important form of recovery, regardless of your goals, fitness level, or body type. Most experts recommend that you get 7-9 hours of sleep per night to allow your body full recovery time, but it is unique to you how much you'll need.
DIET & HYDRATION
Your nutritional intake will affect your energy levels and how you feel as well. Taking in healthy food and plenty of water will drastically improve how your body feels, which can help you avoid and recover from burnout. Check out these blog posts covering meal prep, micronutrients, and macronutrients for help with eating healthy!
It's important to remember that feeling burnt out from the gym should not be a cause for despair. Take a step back, assess the situation, and make adjustments to your routine that will allow you to make the most out of your gym time. If you find yourself struggling to make progress or feeling overwhelmed by the amount of effort required, try switching up your routine, focusing on smaller goals, or taking a break from the gym altogether. With a bit of self-care, you can find the balance and motivation to get back on track.