Are You Suffering From Exercise Burnout?

Are You Suffering From Exercise Burnout?

Get tips on how to avoid exercise burnout and maintain a healthy fitness schedule.

Medically reviewed by Christine Wilmsen Craig, MD
avoiding exercise burnout

Two of the most popular New Year’s resolutions are to exercise more and get in better shape. Many people start January with high hopes of big success, yet by March find themselves struggling to get to the gym and watching their home treadmill collect dust. What happened in the intervening weeks?

A simple thing called, “exercise burnout,” most likely. “Positive enthusiasm often turns into negative because the individual forgets another key component of success: moderation,” says Erica Tuttolomondo, athletic director at Rush-Copley Healthplex, a fitness center in Aurora, Ill.

While many believe the faster and harder they exercise the better; in reality, this can lead to physical and mental exhaustion. Overtraining can cause loss of appetite, lack of progression, extreme fatigue, and even recurring injury. The mind, too, needs time to adjust to exercise. “For many, the thought of exercising every day becomes a chore,” says Tuttolomondo. And that’s when many people quit.

Beat Exercise Burnout

“Spend a week evaluating current activities,” says Thomas A. Fox, an exercise physiologist and author of The System for Health and Weight Loss. “Look at what you’re eating, and even use a camera to help. Then it’s easier to know what to change.”

If exercising is new to you, start out slowly, gradually building up to a reasonable routine. Beginners should keep with the same routine for a couple of months. At first, you will notice physical and mental changes until eventually your body adapts to the routine and hits a plateau. At this point, it’s time to add variety to the workout by using different machines or adjusting frequency, intensity, and time spent exercising.

“If you’re carrying extra weight, physical activity is going to be more difficult for you than for someone else, so be realistic in your goals,” adds Edward Abramson, PhD, professor emeritus of psychology at California State University, in Chico, and author of Body Intelligence: Lose Weight, Keep It Off, and Feel Great About Your Body Without Dieting!

Be sure to go in with the proper mindset. Realize that you won’t see results overnight. It takes time to get into shape. Weight loss occurs gradually over time, so don’t get discouraged if the scale doesn’t show a big drop after one week of working out.

Set a Realistic Exercise Schedule

While everyone’s situation is different, the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association recommend aiming for moderately intense cardio, 30 minutes a day, five days a week (or vigorous cardio 20 minutes a day, three days a week) plus 8 to 10 strength training exercises at 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise, twice a week, to maintain health. (For weight loss, 60 to 90 minutes of exercise a day may be necessary.) These guidelines are for healthy adults under age 65.

If exercise is new to you or if you have an existing health problem, consult with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. “A beginner should start at the low end of the recommendation,” says Tuttolomondo. Consider two 20-minute sessions per week and aim to increase the time each session. Alternating between two or three different cardio machines during a single workout is a good way to avoid physical and mental fatigue.

Choosing a time and place that is easy and convenient will also help you maintain a successful exercise schedule. Tracking your progress on a chart may give you extra motivation as well. “Research shows that graphic feedback about our performance tends to be even more effective than written or verbal feedback, probably because we can see our improvements over time,” says Nicole Gravina, PhD, assistant professor at Roosevelt University in Chicago.

Most importantly, find something you enjoy. Before long, the dreaded chore of exercise might become something to look forward to.

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Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Have you seen this before? If you haven’t, it’s really a good.

Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Realistic
Timely

Smart Goals

Specific – A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. To set a specific goal you must answer the six “W” questions:*Who:      Who is involved?
*What:     What do I want to accomplish?
*Where:    Identify a location.
*When:     Establish a time frame.
*Which:    Identify requirements and constraints.
*Why:      Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.

EXAMPLE:    A general goal would be, “Get in shape.” But a specific goal would say, “Join a health club and workout 3 days a week.”

Smart Goals

Measurable – Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set. When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continued effort required to reach your goal.To determine if your goal is measurable, ask questions such as……How much? How many? How will I know when it is accomplished?

Smart Goals

Attainable – When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. You begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals.You can attain most any goal you set when you plan your steps wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps. Goals that may have seemed far away and out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable, not because your goals shrink, but because you grow and expand to match them. When you list your goals you build your self-image. You see yourself as worthy of these goals, and develop the traits and personality that allow you to possess them.

Smart Goals

Realistic – To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work. A goal can be both high and realistic; you are the only one who can decide just how high your goal should be. But be sure that every goal represents substantial progress. A high goal is frequently easier to reach than a low one because a low goal exerts low motivational force. Some of the hardest jobs you ever accomplished actually seem easy simply because they were a labor of love.Your goal is probably realistic if you truly believe that it can be accomplished. Additional ways to know if your goal is realistic is to determine if you have accomplished anything similar in the past or ask yourself what conditions would have to exist to accomplish this goal.

Smart Goals

Timely – A goal should be grounded within a time frame. With no time frame tied to it there’s no sense of urgency. If you want to lose 10 lbs, when do you want to lose it by? “Someday” won’t work. But if you anchor it within a timeframe, “by May 1st”, then you’ve set your unconscious mind into motion to begin working on the goal.

T can also stand for Tangible – A goal is tangible when you can experience it with one of the senses, that is, taste, touch, smell, sight or hearing. When your goal is tangible you have a better chance of making it specific and measurable and thus attainable.