When Exercise Burnout Sets In, Here's How to Get Motivated Again

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Whether you've been a regular exerciser for three weeks or three years, motivation levels tend to ebb and flow. You go through periods where it feels empowering to get off the couch and head to the gym because you're seeing fitness gains and feeling strong, and then there are other times when it's a challenge to drag yourself out of bed and working out feels like a chore. It's normal to have those lazy days here and there, but what if low motivation becomes a pattern you can't seem to shake?

If you're fairly new to exercise and feelings of burnout are tempting you to quit, consider first whether or not you're doing too much too soon. If your workouts are too frequent or too long, they can leave you feeling physically drained. No one likes feeling run down all the time, and regularly experiencing this can allow thoughts of quitting to start infiltrating your brain. Also consider whether or not you enjoy the activities you're doing. If you don't, you're not likely to stick with them long-term. Don't be afraid to try new things until you find activities that you like and seem to be a good fit.

If you've been a regular exerciser for years, feelings of burnout can be more difficult to understand. You likely know your limits and have found things you enjoy doing, which is why you've stuck with them for so long in the first place. It can be difficult and even frustrating to pinpoint what has changed and why, suddenly, your workout just isn't working for you.

Extinguish the Burnout Before It Burns You

Try something new. Consider working toward a new goal if you still enjoy your current exercise routine. For instance, if you like walking or running, train for a 5K in your area.

Take a break. If you aren't comfortable taking a complete break from all activity, find other activities you enjoy doing that might not be considered traditional exercise.

Remind yourself how far you've come. Even if it feels like you're going through a rough patch, that doesn't mean you're destined to end up back at square one. Remember all of the hard work that got to you to this place and be prepared to re-focus and keep working toward your goals.

5 Signs You Could Be Experiencing Burnout

It can be challenging to recognize the symptoms of burnout, especially if you tend to ignore the signals your body is giving you. You might assume you've been extra lazy lately or reprimand yourself for not just pushing through. But what if something bigger is going on? Learn to identify the signs of burnout so that you can make changes to help you feel better, both physically and mentally.
  1. You're experiencing excessive fatigue. If you've been neglecting incorporating rest into your routine, you might find that physical or mental exhaustion starts setting in. Your performance can suffer and motivation dips when it's a struggle to complete the workout and energy is still lacking after you're done. Try taking a few days of rest or light activity, such as a gentle yoga class or a walk around the block. If it seems to help, focus on incorporating a mix of higher intensity, lower intensity and rest days into your routine regularly.
  2. You're easily distracted. Now is the time you've scheduled to work out, but instead you find a million other things to keep you busy. "I can't work out right now because that kitchen cabinet has to be reorganized!" Sound familiar? If you find yourself stalling instead of getting started, take a look at why you keep putting it off. Perhaps you need to find something new that gets you excited about working out again.
  3. You're not sleeping well. A regular exercise routine can help you sleep better, but too much exercise can make sleep a challenge. If you feel like eight to nine hours a night is never enough, or the quality of your sleep is not what it used to be, you might be pushing yourself too hard. Adequate rest and recovery are important for proper shut-eye.
  4. You're a crabby pants. When your routine isn't giving you the good feelings it once was, it can leave you feeling short-tempered and irritated. Think back to a time when exercise was the boost you needed to get through the day on a high note. What has changed since then and how can you help those good feelings return?
  5. You aren't seeing progress. Everyone needs a positive sign now and then that they are headed in the right direction. Improved muscle definition, increased strength, better cardio endurance or weight loss are all ways to know you are getting healthier and doing something good for your body. When you don't see changes, it's easy to get down about your sweat sessions. Evaluate your routine to figure out if your plateau is a case of not pushing yourself enough, not changing things up regularly or something else altogether.
Most of the time, you can avoid burnout by listening to your body and the little voice in your head telling you it's time for a change. It's important to be flexible and explore your options so that when that dip in motivation does inevitably occur, you can easily make adjustments and keep moving forward toward your goals.