How to avoid workout burnout

7 ways to avoid workout burnout

Words: Melanie Dimmitt

You might be pushing too hard. You might be expecting too much. Or you might just be bored out of your mind. Whatever the reason, mental and physical burnout is rapidly becoming a modern epidemic and it’s stressing a lot of us out, to say the least (particularly if you’re a millennial of the female persuasion, according to this widely-read article by Fast Company). While regular exercise is a proven antidote to work-induced stress, if you’re stretching your body too far or labouring through a lacklustre regime, it can backfire. So here are seven ways to safeguard your workout against burnout.

  1. Start slow

Treat your relationship with a new kind of exercise as you would a new romantic partner and don’t come on too strong in the early weeks. If you’re coming to a workout cold, try starting with a couple of sessions a week and building gradually from there. Popular psychology says it takes 21 days to form a new habit, so crashing and burning at day 10 won’t do anything to help a new routine stick.

  1. Set small goals

Thinking small can be the secret success – especially when it comes to achieving your goals. So while you might want to exercise every day or pull off the perfect handstand, shelf that dream as ‘long-term’ and break it down into baby steps. So if your goal is to touch your toes, first aim for your ankles. Nothing kills motivation faster than disappointment – and you can’t expect to go from couch to 5k in the blink of an eye.

  1. Change it up

Believe it or not, boredom is burnout’s best friend. Because just as running at 100 miles an hour can drive you into the ground, monotonous undertakings can also lead to increased levels of stress (so said this survey of 400 workers with less-than-thrilling jobs). Barre Body makes it easy to keep things fresh with a range of class styles, and a change of scene, such as visiting a new studio or taking your workout outside, can re-energise any old routine.

  1. Take a break

Smart companies like Google give their employees paid time off because they come back re-energised and buzzing with new ideas, and the same principle applies to your bod – which is why you won’t see a professional athlete slogging it out in the off-season. Every now and again skip your workout and sleep in, see a movie or even go on a full-blown holiday. Those in the know recommend one week-long break from exercise every three-to-six months.

  1. Buddy up

Studies show that sweating in good company takes your motivation and commitment to exercise up a notch – and can even inspire you to work harder – while the social side of training with a friend is an instant de-stressor. Introducing a friend to your workout is a good way to re-ignite your passion for it, so first-timers are especially useful as their newfound, wide-eyed excitement is bound to rub off on you.

  1. Schedule your workouts (and don’t forget recovery days)

It pays to be organised in the fight against burnout. Knowing exactly when and where your workouts are happening eliminates that exhausting “Do I or don’t I?” deliberation from your day and streamlines your schedule. Be sure to vary the intensity of each workout, and as the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder. A rest day will rekindle your love for your workout, so make a point of penning in a day or two of r&r while you’re at it.

  1. Play

Yes, it’s called a workout, but exercise needn’t feel like a chore. Games like Pokémon Go get a ludicrous amount of people off their butts and running around with crazed vigour – and there’s oodles of energy exerted in bouncing on a trampoline, skipping rope, taking part in a team sport or even giving a tetherball a hearty whack. There’s nothing like a little play to shake up your routine and keep workout burnout at bay.