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; 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
When JAXNSAM came to the SparkPeople Community to ask for help with her exercise motivation issues, she was met with a variety of suggestions to help her get back on the right track.
"For almost 30 years I have worked out faithfully [for] five to six days a week. I have done a variety of things: walking, weights, kickboxing. PIYO, T25, yoga. Within the last two weeks, I am forcing myself to work out and I hate it. I switch things up, I try new workouts and [the feelings remain.] I want to take a short [three to five day] break, [but] then the guilt sets in. What do you do?"
Try something new. "What's something you've absolutely never done that you might want to try? A person is never too old to do anything," suggests SparkPeople member ARCHIMDESII. "If you have bad joints like me, you [can] modify the exercises where needed. In order to get your fitness mojo back, you need to find an activity to be passionate about. You should look forward to exercising, not dread it. If you're dreading it, you're burned out."
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. MLAN613 believes setting a new goal can add purpose to your workouts. "If you enjoy strength training, [consider working] toward a body building competition. If you enjoy yoga, [could you] become a certified instructor?" she asks.
Take a break. "This has happened to me before, [and] you're not going to like the answer," says KYRELYSE. "When I was completely burned out and exhausted and went from loving to hating the gym, I made a scary decision: I stopped exercising. I would go on short walks just to keep myself busy, but I needed time off from structured exercise. I took off a whole two months, but you may need more or less time off. It's personal. Trust me, I'm back in a much healthier mindset with exercise than ever before, and my workouts have gotten better, too."
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. LULUBELLE65 has some go-to activities she suggests, such as going for a walk or putting on some music and dancing around the living room. "Try to find active things you enjoy or that need to be done, such as shoveling snow. Don't beat yourself up over not working out, [and instead just] figure out what it is that you want to do," she says.
BECCABOO27 says she takes breaks every once in a while. "Do something different that you enjoy, whether it be a hobby or whatever. Work on the guilt issue—guilt never gets anyone anywhere, except miserable," she advises.
Remind yourself how far you've come. "I talk sternly to myself, reminding me that it took over six months to lose all that weight," says ALUKOWSKY. "Do I really want to go back there again? I tell myself that I would be letting down all those people—husband, co-workers, sisters, parents, SparkFriends—who have supported me during my journey and are proud of my accomplishment. Stepping on the scale and seeing that the needle has moved in the wrong direction also helps. Once I start doing exercise again, it doesn't take long to re-establish the habit, as long as the lapse hasn't been too long."
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.
Have you experienced exercise burnout? How did you handle it?
More From SparkPeople