How to Turn Burnout into Turnout!
Workout Burnout Is Real... How to Turn Burnout into Turnout!
By Tara Johnson, CF-L2 and Personal Coach
Training sucks. Like really sucks. If you’re one of those people that hop out of bed, super stoked to workout – stop reading. You are the outlier, count your lucky stars and run some laps or pump out some reps. If you’re like me, ideal life consists of sugary cereal, pizza, diet coke, couch surfing and craft beer joint hopping with my buddies. It’s a crime that you can’t do these things and still be able to wipe your own can, or reach it for that matter in no time flat.
So, you eat clean and train dirty, and for some of us, it’s as routine as brushing your teeth (if it’s not, give me a call – helping you get there is kinda my thing). Occasional workout suckfests (a boring monotonous workout here, a frustrating lift session there) is one thing. Total workout burnout—the kind that triggers chronic exhaustion, lapses in workout scheduling, and technique inefficacy- aka “phoning your workout in”—is a whole other. If you’re experiencing the latter, you may be suffering from a legit-medically-defined condition known as “burnout.” Yeah, it’s a thing, no, you’re not crazy, no you’re not alone, and most importantly, you can do something about it!
*The World Health Organization (WHO) added “burnout” to its International Classification of Diseases, recognizing it as the result of “chronic stress that has not been successfully managed.” Hello global pandemic, and all the fallout from it! Regular workouts kept me and my crew sane during shutdown just by keeping one controllable – controlled and one scheduled thing uninterrupted, but we’re in the trudges now and the whole fitness landscape is really up on it’s end as we figure out a more permanent, “new normal”
3 signs that you're in a legit burnout situation
The WHO’s definition of burnout aligns with the Maslach Burnout Inventory, a leading measure of the syndrome that describes a combination of three factors. (Thank you, Men’s Health Magazine, for saving me the additional research time- quoted text with my 2 cents to follow for a moment...)
You feel tired—like, really tired—a lot of the time
We all have days where we’re seriously dragging, but hopefully they're few and far between. If you regularly feel exhausted—especially around your normal training times and days—you may be trending towards burnout.
Chronic low energy isn’t a sole indicator of burnout. True burnout also bears these two symptoms.
You’ve become seriously cynical
Venting and complaining about training (and nutrition/diet) isn’t a crime, and my level of sarcasm makes it a way of life. You would be that “weird friend” if you weren't a little salty about burpees and running and riced cauliflower. But if cynicism becomes your status quo and you’re no longer inspired or motivated to train or fuel right, you could be on the path to burnout—or already taking up residence and the “Don’t Care Motel”.
You’re not as productive—or confident—as usual
The third component of burnout is inefficacy, or an inability to effectively accomplish your workout. Instead of feeling capable and proud, you feel discouraged and unconfident. Mix in some exhaustion and cynicism, and burnout is all but guaranteed.” **
SoOoOoOo...What to do if you're burned out
ABORT ABORT ABORT! Grab the nearest bag of Doritos and your Snuggy® and get to binging old CrossFit® Games tape and a Rocky marathon until the inspiration and motivation comes back!! I’m Kidding – Mostly.
You don’t need to be in full on ding-dang burnout before you can get your mojo back! In fact, just like when you get off course on your diet for one meal, it’s better—and easier—to correct on the next meal than say “fork it”, grabbing the Ben and Jerrys®.
Stop! Collaborate and read on for some suggestions to help you steer back towards pursuing your special brand of awesome.
Try workout/diet crafting
Sometimes, quitting best solve for burnout – if it’s a job, or a toxic relationship, it is NOT the best solve for your nutrition and health! So before jumping to any extremes, and risking Type 2 Diabetes, try improving your current situation through “workout crafting.”
First pinpoint the things in a typical workout day that you really enjoy, and those that you don’t. Then, adjust your workouts so you spend more time on the good stuff and less time on the bad. You can also modify movements for a time to help get over the slump – hate burpees more than usual, sub in some up-downs. Coach got you doing all the snatches eh? Switch it up to Dumbbell Snatches for a bit and work on that ground up explosion. It’s kinda like putting some good hot sauce on them greens to make it better or suck less until you can get your mindset back.
Sleep is the most direct part of your personal life that impacts burnout and just about everything else: muscle recovery, brain function, general attitude. Fatigue makes everything harder which leads to feeling beat down. When you’re well rested, you’re generally more agreeable and simply ready for the day’s work. So purposefully plan your schedule around getting adequate rest. (again, something I can help you accomplish)
Intentionally disengage from training and nutrition
Training and nutrition are base-of-the-pyramid important, but it’s not everything! Make time for your personal relationships and other things you enjoy that have nothing to do with training or food. Give yourself a single outing/break from training and nutrition, and get back at it next meal, next training day. Give yourself permission to couch surf, read a book in bed, play with your kids, enjoy a stupid delicious meal with your person – you train to be able to enjoy these things.
Let yourself off the hook
Burnout as not a personal failing, it is a part of life. You’re here hopefully 80+ years and let’s face it, inspiration has the lifespan of a fair booth gold fish and motivation is very much like the tide – it comes in hot and fades out (but remember it comes back!!). The in-betweens will happen and planning for these times is the best way out of the well when you fall in. You’re human, but my favorite analogy is around a flat tire – they happen, not if, but when, and when, you repair or replace the tire and get back on the road, you don’t say fork it, slash the other three and sit in your own suck soup... at least you shouldn’t. When you fall off the proverbial wagon because your cup of mojo runs dry, forgive yourself and move on.
Spread positive vibes
If your environment is contributing to your burnout, time to change it up!!! You are more likely to stay consistent with a program you enjoy, and a nutrition plan that is reasonable and rational. Reach out to the positive people in your tribe and share that you’re on a struggle bus. Sometimes simply admitting that the train’s off the tracks is a great way to get back on it, and an encouraging ear can do nothing but help.
You can also fake it till you make it. Tell yourself why you’re training and eating well and tell yourself that this feeling is temporary. Positive affirmations are incredibly powerful, and your body will do what the mind tells it... make sure the messaging is on point. The hope here is that your thoughts turn to actions spur a ripple effect that improves conditions for you and others.
Seek professional help
Look at your goals, and if you’re way off course – get some help getting back on track! Signing up for 1:1 coaching isn’t a lifelong commitment, and a good coach creates outcomes, not lifers for clients. If you’ve tried the above tactics to no avail, it may be time to reassess your training and nutrition goals, and/or speak with a health professional.
If your case of burnout is more than you feel you can overcome, DO NOT suffer in silence. Take charge of your health and ask for help. After all, no training or nutrition plan should suck that much, unless your workout is outrunning a tornado.
*Inspiration and referenced references from: https://www.menshealth.com/health/a28859771/burnout-is-real-heres-how-to-work-through-it/