How to Avoid Work out Burn out

 “Hmm In-n-Out, that looks good why don’t I get that for dinner tonight.  Damn I’m late, I’ll stop at Taco Bell before I go to work to get some food.  Nah I don’t feel like going to the gym tonight I’m too tired I’ll only miss once this week.”  This used to be some of the most common dialogue I had with myself and still have sometimes to this day.  One day I was minding my own business like I normally do and as I take off my shirt I notice something unusual, either a baby is growing in my stomach or I’ve gained 15 pounds since the last time I looked at myself.  Since I can’t grow a baby I’m pretty sure it was the 15 pounds of In-n-out and Taco Bell I would eat almost everyday that caused this monstrosity.  I decided enough was enough, I couldn’t have the baby belly from Total Recall (Arnold’s version).  It was time for a change.  I decided I would dust off the Insanity DVD’s I had and jump in my gym clothes and hit the gym so I would make sure I would burn off that Taco Bell fat that surrounds my stomach.  As I lace up my brand new shoes and put on my brand new gear that I obviously needed to make my goals happen, my motivation couldn’t be higher.   I made the plans, researched the food and away I go. 

Everything was going great for the first week, I’m seeing results and I couldn’t be happier.  Only thing is it’s been a week and I’ve been going a million miles a minute with no rest.  I’m burning the candle at both ends, I’m doing Insanity when I wake up, weights at night, and working for 8 hours in between.  Once Sunday hits I am supposed to do a DVD from insanity but things start slipping and I’ve been noticing I’ve started to get a little tired of waking up an extra hour early.  Monday I decide I’ll just sleep in and then try to squeeze in Insanity before I work out,  then I found I was too tired from the intense cardio to actually get a good lift at the gym.  Then it happened, I come to a stage of overtraining where I couldn’t sustain my Insane workout regimen any longer.  I didn’t even want to go to the gym, my work suffered and I was driving myself crazy all at the same time.  It was a defeating feeling.  How many of you have been there?  I think at some point we’ve all fallen into this trap.  I know I have a few times.  I also know a few people that have gone through the same thing.  We want to lose the weight or obtain the goal and try and make too many drastic changes thinking we can handle it, only to fall short and beat ourselves up mentally in the process.  For me this was 2012.  For you it could be right now or yesterday or last week.  I want you to learn from my mistakes so you stop bashing your head against the wall wondering why after a year of “working out” you’re still not where you want to be. 

Luckily over time I’ve read a few books and taken some advice and I no longer go into crazy overdrive mode trying to obtain whatever goals I want (it was usually weight loss).  I know now that to achieve any of my goals it will take longer than 1 month, it’s going to take a lot of patience and consistency.  Everything that you see in the Instagram or Facebook for the fitness industry being promoted out there is  the one-two month “fix”.  These programs do work but they are so drastic of a change that most people can’t sustain it in the long run.  For most people I believe it is much better to become 1% better every day than to jump 50% in a week only to start all the way back over again.  In the long run for most, the 1% better everyday will always win because you are making small incremental changes that are much easier to sustain.  For the mental side the smaller the change the easier to adjust and the more likely to have long term success.  100% better in 100 days is easier to sustain as well.  What I have been doing is thinking of the long picture and subtracting or adding little things at a time instead of add 15 things and jump in head strong only to burn out in the short term. 

This entire year I can only remember missing 1 lift, I’ve been pretty consistent in regard to my workouts.  Now this past week I added swimming on my off days as a part of an experiment.  It’s been a little difficult to try and cope during the added 30 minute workout for 2 days because I’m not used to doing any cardio at all.  But it’s not that big of a change to where it can be considered drastic.  In fact after the first week I feel pretty strong even though I may have eaten a little more than I usually do.  Yes, I did have In-n-Out, but as a planned meal.    

If you haven’t already started on a routine and sticking to it, start out with the smallest possible step that you can and commit to it.  If your goal is to commit to a routine in the gym, pick the smallest possible step, example: just get to the gym and do anything small 3x a week.  If you want to start running decide to commit to walk for 5 minutes 3x a week.  The point here is just to start small and slowly build up work capacity.  The mental side of this process is to take the time to slowly plan your steps of action carefully to avoid burn out.  As you are increasing you want to feel challenged, but not over worked.  Ask yourself what is more important, long term success or short term burn out?  Ask could I do this same workout again tomorrow? If the answer is no, then you are definitely pushing yourself too hard.  Now this type of starting point wont work for most athletes that are used to training because their capacity is stronger but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from the examples here.  If you are going to the gym 3x a week and then jump to 5x a week adding 1 hour of cardio 3x a week isn’t the way I would recommend you go unless you have a very specific short term goal.  You should be looking for this to be able to stay with you for the long term.    

Once I can handle the 30 minutes of swim I have added 2x a week, I plan on pushing to 45 minutes of swimming per session.  My end goal is to be able to swim for 1 hour straight.  My plan is to get there slowly once I feel my capacity is almost to the best it can be I will move up to the next level of my goal.   

Action step:  start any routine but start small.  If you already have an established routine, and you feel like you are plateauing then it is time to start thinking about adding and/or removing to revamp your workouts to make them more challenging.  Good luck!

If you want to read about my swim experiment or recommended swimming workouts please check out my other blog post 8 swimming benefits.

Please leave comments or likes and let me know what you thought about the article.  If you have any requests on something that might interest you please let me know.

-Iron Mike

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