Many people believe that the faster, harder, and the more frequent they exercise, the better it is for their body. Realistically, this can lead to physical and mental exhaustion. People tend to forget several key aspects of maintaining a sustainable workout regime: moderation, variety and recovery. Ramping up for a long time can lead to diminishing returns. You end up wiping yourself out more than you are increasing your fitness levels.

Some signs of exercise burnout include:

  • Exhaustion instead of energy
  • Persistent joint or muscular pain/soreness
  • Decreased performance
  • Delayed recovery time
  • Elevated resting heart rate
  • Mood changes
  • Difficulties sleeping
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Increased stress
  • Yawning during exercise

Follow these 7 tips to help prevent exercise burnout so you can continue to meet your fitness goals:

1) Gradually Increase the Intensity and Duration of Your Workout
Trying to do too much too soon can lead to exercise burnout. While intensity is important to improve fitness levels, every workout does not need to be done with high intensity. Find a balance and intersperse lower intensity exercises with higher intensity exercises (i.e. don’t do a high intensity workout on consecutive days). If you are new to a particular workout, start out slowly and gradually build up to a more challenging routine. If you’re not sure how best to do this, seek out a Personal Trainer or ask the Group Fitness Instructor. As you begin an exercise routine, you will notice physical and mental changes in your body until you adapt to the routine and hit a plateau. Establish the building blocks and appropriate strength necessary to participate in higher-intensity training and exercise will be more effective and safe in the long run. Once you have established a strong baseline, or have reached a plateau, then you can add some more challenges to your workouts. Gradual changes leads to long-term and sustainable results and will help you avoid injury, pain, and a negative perception of exercise.

2) Set a Realistic Schedule
Fit in your workout at times when you have energy. Instead of scheduling workouts later in the day when you’re more likely to run into an energy deficit from all the tasks you’ve been doing during the day, try to fit in a workout before work or at lunch time. You can even break your intense workout into short sessions if that works better for your schedule so you’re not forcing a workout when fatigued. Your workout plan should always include active recovery days. Classes like restorative yoga, light swimming or dynamic stretch classes will give your body a break from more intense exercises while still giving you a workout. Over time, the cross-training and recovery days you schedule will allow you to become stronger.

3) Add Variety and Fun with Cross-Training
You don’t always have to do the exact same intense bootcamp to feel like you didn’t waste your time in the gym. It is important that you try new classes or exercises so your body and mind can have a break from the monotony.  While repetition and routines are good, it will force you to use the same muscle groups repeatedly which could cause strain or become less effective. With cross-training, you will feel more energized and less bored. Once or twice a week, trade in your regular gym session or class for a different workout:  there’s dance fitness, spinning, yoga, kickboxing, TRX, etc. Also consider going on a hike, or playing a fun tennis game. A combination of resistance and cardiovascular training is effective because it allows you to increase your muscular strength and your cardiovascular endurance at the same time. The options are endless!

4) Monitor Your Stress
While exercise can be a great stress-reliever, pushing an already stressed body past its boundaries with too much intense exercise can lead to burnout. When stress levels are high, your body is exhausted and mental clarity is taxed. As a result, it undergoes physiological changes (increased blood pressure, heart rate, and perspiration) and hormonal changes (excess adrenaline for the “fight or flight” instinct). Your immune function can decrease leaving your body more susceptible to sickness and infections. If you’re going through a highly stressed time in your life, it’s a good idea to maintain a routine with lower-intensity exercises (think yoga or walking). If you prefer sticking with high-intensity workouts, then add in extra recovery days. Make sure you are balancing out your stress and your training.

5) Listen to Your Body
Don’t neglect what your body is telling you. There are times when pushing your body through some moderate fatigue is a good idea, but there are other times when pushing yourself too much is actually hurting you. Overtraining can lead to a loss of appetite, lack of progression, fatigue, illness, and recurring injury. Your mind also needs time to adjust to new exercise routines and patterns.

6) Catch your ZZZ’s
Sleeping is when your body is truly at rest and when all the muscular damage from your workouts are repaired. Without getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night on a regular basis, you are setting yourself up for burnout and injury. Not only will be you be exercising intensely with an already stressed body, but you are exercising with muscles that haven’t achieved full recovery yet. Scheduling and committing to sleep is as important as scheduling the workouts.

7) Eat Right
Your body needs proper nutrition to be able to sufficiently “prepare and repair” your muscles between workouts. Be wary of drastically cutting calories if weight loss is one of your goals. While you don’t want to ingest more calories than you need, more often than not, those who are overtraining tend to not eat enough to sustain their activities. If your body does not receive proper nutrition, your muscles cannot repair itself properly, which stalls your progression. Aim to eat a balance of complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and healthy fats without skipping any food groups. Seek nutrition counseling if you are unsure how to eat for your fitness goals.

BollyX Instructor Namisha Balagopal


About the Author: Namisha grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah and her first memory of dancing was dancing around the house to non-stop Hindi music. She started training in Kathak, a classical dance from North India, at 6 years old and traveled to Bangalore, India to train with Pandit Birju Maharaj, Saswati Sen, and Nadam Dance Troupe.

Through her dance career, she performed at the 2002 Winter Olympics, the Salt Lake Tabernacle, ASHA, and was the inaugural dancer at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. In high school, she co-founded a dance studio, SuraChandam, and taught Bollywood, Contemporary and Kathak.

Namisha currently teaches at DogPatch Dance and Yoga in San Francisco on Mondays at 6:30pm, Stanford SCRA in Palo Alto on Tuesdays at 5pm, and the Palo Alto Family YMCA on Thursdays at 6pm.

Not On The List?

Sign up now. Get more BX in your Life.