Tips for avoiding exercise burnout

It may seem like an odd time of year to discuss exercise burnout, but in fact I think it is the ideal time to broach this subject.

Those entering the fitness realm for the first time are particularly prone to this syndrome. And, those who have perhaps overindulged during the holidays may have created unrealistic expectations regarding their fitness program, making them susceptible to burnout as well. Everyone wants results now and may believe that if they train intensely, constantly, they will achieve their goals more quickly when nothing could be further from the truth.

However, if you are aware of the signs and symptoms of exercise burnout, you may be able to avoid the significant downsides to this syndrome. First, let’s review burnout signs and symptoms and then highlight the solutions. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

Symptom 1: One of the first symptoms of burnout is disinterest in performing your program. You get up in the morning and feel as though you have to drag yourself to the gym and you do not feel much better afterward like you used to, leading to further malaise.

Symptom 2: You are always tired. You do not believe you can produce the intensity necessary to perform optimally and over time, you do not produce optimal results due to chronic fatigue.

Symptom 3: You begin to experience injuries. At first it may just be a few aches and pains, but eventually, you are simply hurting.

Symptom 4: Your fitness level begins to diminish. And, it seems like the harder you push yourself, the less fit you feel.

Symptom 5: You either cannot keep weight on, or you are beginning to gain weight without consuming more food and without gaining more muscle.

What may be causing these symptoms? Well, you probably already have a pretty good idea — overtraining and overreaching. When you overtrain, your body is not receiving the amount of recovery it requires to produce optimal results. Recovery is simply an essential component of all exercise programs. The body needs to refuel, recover and rebuild the energy stores, repair and grow the muscle fibers that breakdown during training in order to progress.

When you overreach, you are pushing yourself to the brink of exhaustion because you are attempting to attain a fitness level that may be beyond your physical capability at least when performing your current fitness program. Regardless, the body is pushed too hard and even with what may seem like adequate recovery, the body is not recovering because you return to pushing it too hard.

Both overtraining and overreaching create a vicious cycle of exhaustion, increased susceptibility to injury, muscle atrophy, complacency and eventually, the dreaded drop out. OK, so how do you avoid burnout?

Train smart. Choose several days per week to perform a well-designed exercise program prepared by experienced, formally educated and certified fitness professionals.

Notice any of the signs and symptoms listed above and make adjustments in your program immediately (i.e. no more working out twice a day!).

Meet with a registered dietician to make certain that your nutritional regimen supports your exercise program and lifestyle. The food you consume is literally your fuel.

This is your only body, treat it respectfully.

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