adidas / October 2023

Ways To Avoid Exercise Burnout

Feeling over the workout before even starting? Learn the signs of gym burnout and how to avoid it so you can get back to enjoying your training.

Can You Burnout From Too Much Exercise?

There’s nothing better than the strength, endorphins, and that sense of accomplishment that come from a good workout, and this is only compounded when you stick to a regular schedule. However, it is possible to take it too far. “Overtraining is basically doing something to a point that you can’t recover,” said Juan Martinez, a trainer at the adidas HQ gym. When you work out more than your body is ready for and don’t leave enough recovery time, it’s a recipe for exercise burnout. Martinez leads specialized training programs for individuals as well as group fitness, and showed us how to recognize the signs of burnout in athletes and gym newcomers alike and what to do if it occurs.

What Does Exercise Burnout Feel Like?

When experiencing physical burnout from overtraining, you might feel like it’s a struggle to get through the workout—even if you’re excited to train. You might also experience abnormal changes in appetite, difficulty sleeping, irritability, extreme soreness, or injury. On the mental side, you could be bored by your training, giving yourself an out whenever it’s time to gear up for the gym. When this happens, it’s time to reset and get back to why you love fitness. Ideally “in workouts, you should feel refreshed. It should revive you to some extent,” said Martinez. “Yeah, you could be physically tired, but by the end, you feel better overall.”
Below are some common fitness burnout symptoms and solutions to combat it. Go forth, self-diagnose, and prescribe yourself some TLC.

The Symptom: Soreness And Exhaustion

If it’s pure agony to reach for the cereal box, you shudder at the thought of a squat, or you’re one blink away from falling asleep at 2 p.m., then you *might* have overworked yourself. We all have moments of soreness or fatigue after a tough workout, but if this is happening almost every day or to an extreme degree, then your body is telling you to take a break.

The Remedy: Rest

A good old-fashioned rest day—or two or three. Your body is giving you permission to chill, and it’s time to listen. This could entail kicking your feet up for a movie, or rolling out your sore muscles with a foam roller. But either way, rest up and don’t feel guilty about it. Your mind and body will thank you when it’s time to put the gym shoes on again.

The Symptom: Tired But Dedicated

The 6 a.m. alarm sounds, and you roll over knowing that HIIT class is just not the vibe today. This is a state of burnout when you’re not up for your typical hard workout, but it doesn't call for a total rest-on-the-couch day either. You might feel light soreness from a previous workout that you want to move out of your body, or maybe you’re just feeling like moving at a more leisurely pace today.

The Remedy: Light activity

This is a great time to try an active rest day. Choose an activity that feels rejuvenating for your body in a way that complements your usual workout. Yoga, a hike, or a scenic bike ride around town are just a few ways you can still be active while taking a break from your normal routine.

The Symptom: Mental Exhaustion Or Boredom

If the treadmill is feeling more like a hamster wheel that leads to nowhere, or you would rather throw bricks at a wall than curl one more dumbbell, then you need to shake things up. Routine and consistency are not the enemy, but occasionally it’s necessary to try new things that bring excitement and learning back into your life.

The Remedy: A New Challenge

Scope out what your gym or city has to offer and try something new that excites or even scares you. Always wanted to try a boxing class? Punch one out. Curious about the spin studio craze? Now’s your time! Even something as simple as shooting solo hoops in your gym, or seeing if you can work up to five pull-ups could be enough to light up your brain and reignite your desire to get moving again.

The Symptom: Mood Swings

Most of the time, the gym serves as an outlet to feel better afterward. But when life gets overwhelming, sometimes that can add fuel to the fire of gym burnout. For those who work out to feel better physically and emotionally, it can be upsetting when it’s not doing the trick for your mental state. You might feel like you’re swinging between irritability, frustration, or sadness that your workouts aren’t making you feel the way you used to.

The Remedy: Self-Care Day

If you’re just not feeling like yourself, it might be time for some relaxation and self-care. Perhaps you need to treat yourself to a massage or sauna. Try out some meditation to clear your mind, or get together with friends who make you laugh. Do what feels good for you, because we all have moments where we just need to hit the reset button.

How To Avoid Cardio Burnout

“If you really love doing cardio, try adding some variety,” said Martinez. “It doesn't have to be the same hour on the elliptical every single time.” Try doing 15 minutes of HIIT on a spin bike one day and 30 minutes of walking on an inclined treadmill the next.
When coming up with a workout routine, rarely is one lane of training the key to success. “It's good to be well-rounded. It's going to look different based on your goals, but typically we find that most adults do well with having a day of resistance training. This could be using a barbell, a small set of dumbbells, or even bodyweight,” said Martinez. Mixing up your cardio workouts with days of strength training will benefit your mind and body in the long run.

Should You Workout If You Feel Burnt Out?

If you’re experiencing physical symptoms of burnout like extreme soreness, fatigue, or injury, take some time off from the gym. But if you’re feeling the mental effects of burnout, it might just be time to try something new.
Setting goals can help you stay motivated and on track to not only work toward a result, but also to enjoy the progress along the way. The key to fitness success though is you must always remember why you’re doing it, said Martinez. “Whether it's climbing a mountain, lifting a certain amount of weight, or finishing a marathon, go back to why we even set out on this workout routine in the first place to re-level set on your goals.”
Gym burnout can come from losing interest in an end goal, or not enjoying the work it takes to get there. If you find yourself hating the process, it’s okay to change course to something that brings you more joy. He encourages you to check in often with yourself and reassess if your workouts are lighting you up. “If you recenter and say hey, you know what? I don't want to run a 5K anymore. Cool. Now we don't have to be bound to this one workout routine. Let's find something else that drives us.”
Illustrations by Hunter French 
adidas / October 2023