Workout Burnout: Signs, Coping and Prevention

Dreading to go out for a run? No improvement despite months of training? Working out feels like a chore? I might just know what’s happening to you.

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Dreading to go out for a run? No improvement despite months of training? Working out feels like a chore? I might just know what’s happening to you.

Stay with me as I get all technical for a moment. When we exercise, our body releases anabolic and catabolic hormones. Anabolic hormones, like testosterone, are for muscle building and catabolic hormones, like cortisol, are for muscle breakdown. Our goal should be to experience just enough stress in a workout that the anabolic (muscle building) hormones will still be higher than catabolic (breakdown) hormones. When we overtrain and not get enough rest, our catabolic hormones are way higher than our anabolic hormones resulting to fatigue and eventually: burnout.

So what is workout burnout? According to personal trainer, businesswoman, author, and television personality from Los Angeles, California, Julian Michaels: It is a state that is brought about by overtraining and under recovery. This means that our body is operating at high stress levels all the time and not having enough time to repair and recover.

It is a state that is brought about by overtraining and under recovery. This means that our body is operating at high stress levels all the time and not having enough time to repair and recover.

Burning out can manifest either mentally or physically. It’s a state where one feels one or a combination of the following:

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Mental-associated burnout

1. Loss of motivation
Running at 5am used to come naturally to you but now the first thing that comes to mind is: Do I have to?

2. Irritability with everything and everyone

It’s not a bad day but you’re in a bad mood. All the treadmill are occupied in the gym? UGH! Someone left their plates on the squat rack? UGH! A fellow runner said good morning as he passed you? UUUUGGGHHHH!!

3. Lack of interest in things you used to love

You start to feel that there is no point in doing anything. What you previously enjoyed doing is starting to feel like a chore or obligation. There is no love, fun and enthusiasm for it anymore.

Physical-associated burnout

1. Change in appetite, change in sleeping patterns, lower sex drive, etc.

Change in your appetite, sleep, and hormones reveal a lot about your mental state. Our body has a great way of signaling that something is up.

2. Plateauing

You may be hitting all your workouts and nutrition is on point but you can’t seem to progress in your lifts or cut phase not working? This might be a sign of workout burnout.

With a better understanding of what workout burnout is and what the signs are, we laid down ways on how to cope and prevent this from happening to you.

Coping with workout burnout

1. Change things up

Scenery: Remember, oh not so long ago, when the pandemic hit and everyone had to stay indoors for almost one whole year? Remember when you felt the need to even just go up to your roof or stick your head out of the window for a change in scenery? You can do that too to cope with workout burnout. Change your run route, go to a different gym, go to the park, or even giving the treadmill a chance if you’re used to outdoor running.

Intensity: You do not have to go all out all the time. Our bodies need some R&R from time to time but it does not mean that fitness stops. Throw in some short high intensity workouts, long slow-paced running or walking, mobility focused day, and even complete rest days into your routine.

2. Forget the numbers
Been obsessed with hitting a new PR for months now but your numbers are bad despite following your program to a tee? Ditch the watch for a week or two and simply fall in love again with the joys of mindless running.

3. Fuel your body
The best friend of overtraining is under recovery. Aside from simply resting, don’t forget to give your body the TLC that it deserves. Good nutrition and rest will make you feel better faster.

Preventing Workout Burnout

1. Discover new things
Fitness is not just discovering new workouts or gyms, but also a way to discover new things about yourself. Try out different fitness hobbies or sports to keep things fun and light.

2. Be comfortable with being comfortable
Train to have a mindset that rest and recovery is a workout in itself. R&R should be plotted out and form part of your routine. Overtraining does not do good to anybody. Allow yourself to recover and be comfortable with taking a step back.

If you are not comfortable [yet] in having complete rest days (doing absolutely nothing) then you can practice intentional or active rest days. On these days, you can simply walk the dogs for 45 minutes, walk to the grocery, do house chores, or simply stretch for an hour.

Being fit does not entail you to be on your feet 7 days a week. Being fit should be doing what you love while thinking and feeling good holistically. With that, I remind everyone to run, REST, repeat.

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