For many people, one of life’s greatest challenges is being motivated to get “enough” exercise. But, there are those of us who struggle with the exact opposite — we exercise too much. If you’re in this category, exercise is almost like an addiction, and you may not be listening to your body and mind when they’re trying to tell you that you’re pushing them too far.
We’re made to believe that exercising frequently is a good thing (and that’s true). After all, the American Heart Association advises us to get in at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly and 75 minutes of vigorous exercises weekly . And the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute tells us that a normal body mass index (BMI) is 18.5 to 24.9 , so being physically active, in addition to eating healthy, can help us to keep our BMI in that range.
But more is not always better. Like anything else in life, getting too much of something, even if it’s good for you, isn’t always — well, good.
If you’re worried that you may be getting too much exercise yourself, check out the symptoms of gym burnout below that might be telling you that instead of breaking a sweat, you’re actually breaking yourself. Then, learn some tips on how you can fix this exercise “addiction” to ensure your workouts are benefiting you.
Symptoms of a Gym Burnout
No matter how great of an athlete you are, going overboard with “working out” can be causing detrimental effects to your body and your mental well-being.
Some signs that you could be experiencing a gym burnout include:
- You get sick easily and it takes a long time to get better.
- After exercising, you feel exhausted rather than energized.
- Your legs feel heavy.
- You feel sad or depressed
- You get mad easily.
- You can’t sleep or can’t get enough.
- You’re sore regularly for several days at a time.
All of these signs are telling you your body and your mind has had enough. Learn to listen to what your they are saying.
Other signs you’re working out too much include:
Your body feels “off”.
Burnout affects you from both a physical and mental standpoint. This happens when you get accustomed to the levels of dopamine and endorphins you’re producing when you’re continually crushing challenging workouts. When you miss a workout or take a day off, your body may crave those fuzzy and warm chemicals, making you feel a little down or perhaps even depressed. This makes it tougher to get yourself back in the gym.
Symptoms of depression may include:
- Change in appetite
- Drop in sex drive
- Change in sleep habits
You may not feel up to doing anything really.
You have a disinterest in exercise.
A substantial decrease in enjoyment or motivation of exercise can be a huge sign of burnout. It tends to happen more to those who are driven by power and speed, like soccer players, weightlifters and sprinters.
An early sign of overload is reduced workout performance. Altered performance levels are usually more noticeable in endurance activities, such as swimming, running and cycling.
You’re experiencing a diminished appetite.
In later stages of overtraining, you may notice a decrease in appetite, which corresponds to a lack of motivation and feelings of fatigue. This is your body trying to force a reduced workload by slowing your metabolism and other bodily processes.
You find you have a delayed recovery time.
Persistent muscle soreness that lasts for hours or even days following your workout is a definite sign you require some rest.
You have a weakened immune system.
If you’re going through an exercise funk, don’t try to push through it or you might continue to slide down to the point where your immune system may weaken, you develop inflammation or you sustain an outright injury. When this happens, it’s not good. For example, chronic inflammation has been associated with heart disease, diabetes, cancer and more.
Ways to Fix Gym or Exercise Burnout
So, you’re now experiencing gym burnout to the point where you’re simply not motivated by your same weight lifting routine, spinning class or yoga session you once were. Now what? Try to mix things up a bit with these tips below.
Don’t punish yourself.
First and foremost, take a break, even if you feel as if taking a few days off is a sign of failure. When you’re burnt out, taking a break from exercising doesn’t mean you’ll be spending the rest of your days on the couch. When feeling burnt out, the best thing you can do for yourself and your body is to allow yourself some time to reevaluate your goals while you rest. Most likely, after your short break, you’ll have more motivation and workout inspiration.
Mix up your workouts
Along with not punishing yourself, try some new types of exercise out such as:
- Hot yoga
- Zen spin class
Also, consider getting out in nature and taking a brisk walk, hike or jog instead of being always cooped up in a gym for your exercise. These days, some parks, known as “ fitness parks“ or “outdoor gyms have exercise equipment, such as ellipticals and weight machines, and training circuits for you to follow. You might also interact with some fellow exercisers, providing you with more variety in your workout routine.
Set a goal to vary your workout routine with different types of exercise. Be sure to include exercises that target:
- Aerobic fitness
- Muscle fitness
- Core exercises
- Balance, stretching and flexibility
This will not only keep you from sustaining an injury, but also keep you from becoming bored. You’ll also improve your chances of improved energy, muscle tone, endurance and weight loss, too.
Time it right.
You can drain every last ounce of energy you have if you clock your workouts in the later parts of the day after you’ve already put in a full day at work, school, or home. And, this can leave you in deficit mode for the remainder of the night. Instead, clock your workouts for weekends or earlier in the morning on some days and weeks. Remember, though, not everyone responds to exercise at different times of the day in the same way. While one person can get up before the sun rises and go for a run, another person wouldn’t even think of exercising until after Noon.
Listen to your body.
When you’re designing an exercise program, things to consider include:
- Injury history
- Exercise order
- Exercise selection
- Lifestyle factors
When you’re overtraining, it’s time to slow it down and listen to your body, eat nutrient-dense foods, get plenty of sleep and take a break the minute you notice a decrease in your performance or injury.
Refuel and hydrate.
What really can zap the energy right out of you, particularly when exercising, is dehydration. After you’ve hydrated yourself, reach out for healthy foods chock-full of protein and/or vitamins and minerals, such as spinach, green smoothies, ginger, mangos, lean cuts of meat or fish or egg whites to rebound your body. Remember to always take time to recover. When you’ve had a good exercise week and worked out at the gym a few times, allocate yourself some time for recovery. You may want to alternate lighter cardiovascular workouts with weight-training, core fitness, and balance and flexibility training, so you’re not working the same groups of muscles two days in a row. And if you were hurt while exercising, be sure to find a doctor to evaluate and treat your injury.