Burnout – too much of a good thing.

by Katie Beck on February 12, 2014 · 1 comment

Burnout – we’ve all heard this word. People suffer from burnout in a lot of different facets of their lives. Some of the most common places we hear this term are in reference to jobs, high performance athletes, and children in sport. But, I have a sneaking suspicion that most people think this is something that happens to others, but not themselves. The term conjures up images of high performance athletes training 8 hours a day, important business executives who work 60 hours per week, or even 12 year old children whose parents have them at the rink at 6 am 5 days per week, plus the weekends. Burnout is reserved for those who have extremely demanding, high pressure lives, not for the average person. Wrong.
Burnout can happen to anyone and can lead to chronic injury and decreased motivation or enjoyment.  I want you to read this article and take a critical look at yourself. Could you be suffering from burnout? Or approaching the brink? Do you have a plan in place to prevent it?
For this article, let’s keep it applied to the physical activity realm, but remember, it can happen in other areas of your life. Burnout is a catch-all term to describe physical and/or emotional exhaustion from prolonged stressors. Sure, you can come home from a particularly hard workout and feel totally exhausted, but burnout is describing something a little more long term than that. It also has many factors. Here’s a look at the most commonly seen in sport and physical activity:
Physical factors include overtraining and injury and logistical factors include time constraints, too many demands on time, and organizational issues. Examples of these are an unrewarding environment, monotonous activities, and excessive stress. Personal factors include high expectations, not knowing when to stop, the inability to deal effectively with stress, and a loss of interest in the activity. In addition, burnout typically happens when you are spending a lot of time doing one activity. Those who go to class many times a week, workout at home and are pushing themselves too hard, are at risk. It’s great if you are committed and are making it to class all the time, but know there can be too much of a good thing.
How do you know if you are suffering from burnout?
•    Exhaustion: on a regular basis are you having trouble getting out of bed in the morning, feeling excessively tired through the day, or are constantly dragging yourself through a workout?
•    Decreased motivation: feeling like you aren’t losing weight, feeling stronger, getting faster, etc., and dread working out?
•    Performance decrease or injury: are you unable to lift weights or keep pace like you once could? Do you have re-occurring pain or injuries?
We all have days where we feel unmotivated, or sore and tired. This doesn’t automatically mean it’s burnout. But, if over a few weeks you are noticing a trend with no other explanation (fighting a cold, a dramatic change in duties at home or work), then it’s a good idea to consider that you might be feeling a little burned out.
What can you do if you do feel you are struggling with burnout? Talk to your trainer, or Bethany, or me! There are a number of strategies you can implement to help you overcome and prevent burnout if the above symptoms are sounding familiar. You could look at varying your workouts by adding in physical activity that is a little less demanding or that you find relaxing (maybe yoga, or going for a walk with family); or if you typically workout at 6 am, maybe you need to mix it up a bit and do your workout later in the day or on the weekend. Are you a cardio fiend? Why not try some strength training in chiseled. Variety is the spice of life, and it is rewarding to see improvement in an area of fitness that you don’t believe yourself to be good at. It might be just the thing to get you out of your funk and will allow you to socialize with new people.
If you want more information on burnout, here is a great link. Since I am currently not teaching classes, if you want to chat or just to send me a hello, email me at kbeck@upei.ca. I’d love to hear from you.
Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll talk about a related subject – the importance of rest days!

Marlene February 12, 2014 at 7:00 pm

Yes I do so believe I am there. Started a bunch of different things but make excuses way too often and can’t seem to push myself out the door to exercise. Sleep, can’t get enough. Not motivation and I have things that should be motivating me – sign up for the 1/2 in New Glasgow NS in June, have to find a way to get back at it.

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