If there was a list of words that defined today’s society, there’s no doubt that “burnout” would be near the top. Even the World Health Organization classifies burnout as a disease, which goes to show that chronic stress and exhaustion can take a serious toll on the body. Though most people mention it in terms of the constant go-go-go at work, it can also happen at the gym, too.
According to Charlee Atkins, CSCS, trainer and founder of Le Sweat, fitness burnout can come from overtraining—which means that you’re doing too much at the gym. “Overtraining happens when the frequency, volume, or intensity of training becomes excessive to the point of extreme fatigue, illness, or injury,” she says. What are the signs that you’re experiencing this? Look to your mood and your performance.
While training isn’t always linear, if you’re seeing a consistent backslide in your performance, you might be experiencing burnout and could perhaps benefit from a day or two of hitting the pause button. “You might suffer from overtraining or burnout if you find that you’ve plateaued in your workout, or even more noticeably, your performance declines,” says Atkins. “Another indicator is what happens mentally. Maybe you suffer from a massive decrease in joy from training or find your mood is easily disturbed.” If you’re not getting the endorphin-boosting benefits of a workout that you used to (and are instead dreading it), then it could be time to rethink things. Keep scrolling for the ways to combat burnout at the gym and stay sweat happy all year long.
1. Take a break
There’s nothing like a little R and R to get you back on your feet after a particularly grueling sweat sesh. “The first way to prevent burnout is to take rest days,” says Atkins. “Even if you are somebody who works out seven days a week, at least one of those days should be low intensity, such as taking a walk, going for a hike, or taking a stretch class.” While it’s easy to fall into the thinking that every workout calls for you to go hard or go home, fitness can take a more easygoing approach. Always prioritize time with your foam roller, Theragun, or add some good old-fashioned stretching to the mix to keep your whole body happy as you stay active.
2. Make an effort to switch up the way you sweat
Another key thing to keep in mind for preventing fitness burnout is to make sure you’re not sweating in the same exact way every single day. “If you’re not progressing your workouts—with the inclusion of proper rest days—you could suffer from burnout,” says Atkins. An easy way to remedy this is to work the same through different moves. If you’re a squat queen, consider alternating in some lunges so that you don’t get sick of one movement. The same can be said for cardio. If you’re training for a race like a half marathon or 10K or just love the spin bike, make sure to give yourself one day where you’re getting your heart rate up without worrying about clocking miles or hitting the cycling studio. This variability will help not only keep your body from breaking down through repetitive movements, it’ll keep your mind occupied by learning new movements.
3. Always combine strength training, cardio, and stretching
In the same way that you should be switching up moves within strength training and varying the way you get in your cardio to avoid burnout, Atkins says that you shouldn’t always just be lifting wights or just doing cardio. “Make sure to cross-train—and don’t do simply spin classes, for example,” she says. “Add a Pilates or yoga class into the mix.” This will not only work different muscle groups, but also keep your mind engaged (and not bored). Fitness burnout, you don’t stand a chance.