CPT Workout Plans Recovery

6 Ways to Overcome Burnout from Exercising at Home

Dana Bender
Dana Bender
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Overcoming burnout is an important aspect of healthy workout recovery. See our hub on workout recovery to learn much more

When fitness centers closed mid-March in response to COVID-19, many regular gym goers were tasked with converting gym routines to at-home regimes. At the onset of the quarantine, there was a choice to stay resilient and resourceful or lose momentum towards exercise goals.

Many of us met this unique challenge with a stride, replacing the cable or plate-loaded exercises we would do at the gym with a dumbbell, kettlebell, or bodyweight exercises. 

But with this new stay-at-home routine came the increased likelihood of exercise burnout. 

This blog will explore six ways you can combat this exercise burnout while exercising from home. 

But first, let's define exercise burnout really quick!

What is Exercise burnout? 

In general, exercise burnout is a state that can accumulate from various factors over time and can derail our best intentions. Symptoms may include fatigue, low motivation, and reduced performance and productivity, to name a few.

The longer burnout continues, the more significant the symptoms on your physical and emotional wellbeing. The good news is that steps can be taken to reduce and/or prevent exercise burnout with proactive strategies.

#1 Do not be afraid to take a week off

Taking a week off of exercise is recommended throughout the year to aid in muscle recovery; especially with intense exercise regimes. Taking a week apart can help rebuild muscles and bones to a stronger state, and give your body the rest it needs for increased endurance and strength outcomes when returning. Remember, taking a week off does not mean that there is no movement, and you are sitting on the couch.

Instead, it means that you are resting from specific training modalities, repetitive physical movements, and possible high volume of exercise bouts. Consider low-impact gentle movement during an off week. Replace training efforts with foam rolling or stretching, walking outside, and other low-impact movements.

#2 Incorporate Adequate Recovery Time

Consider if over-training might have played a role in the exercise burnout. If you think that is a possibility, it is even more essential to take a week off.

Second, reduce the volume and/or intensity of what you were doing once you return.

Third, make sure this new change incorporates an adequate amount of recovery and cross-training modalities in your program to reduce the possibility of future overtraining. The positive of noticing if this played a role early on is that slight changes can be made to a program before any potential injuries or ailments.

Read also: Prep and Recovery Foundations

#3 Creatively change up the type of exercise

Sometimes, we need to change up what we are doing for a short-time period to get back to what we love to do. When we return to our typical routine or hobbies, we often come back feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Consider changing up what you are doing to help reduce burn out. If you typically do full-body strength training workouts, split up your muscle groups instead. Try a push-pull routine, or even dedicate a specific day to a specific body group.

If you run three to four times a week, consider if another type of cardiovascular exercise can be introduced as a cross-training tool one to two days a week to sustain the running motivation.

Examples could include a Tabata class, dance class, or even merely walking outside instead of running. If you typically enjoy high-intensity interval training, consider a steady-state workout to spice things up. Change up what you are doing a few days a week to stay mentally engaged and motivated towards your go-to exercise modality.

Remember, your routine will still be there for you when you return to it. By creatively changing the type of exercise throughout the week, it can provide a mental refresh that you need to return with renewed motivation and energy.

#4 Try Something New, or Re-invest in a past hobby

Did you used to dance and stopped, but wish you never did? Have you always wanted to try a yoga or Pilates class, but never have?

Trying something new, or re-investing in a past hobby, is the perfect solution to reduce exercise burnout. It channels our energy into focusing on something new, and we usually are highly motivated, ready to take action, or prepare to change, when we sign up for something new.

The good news about this tip is that with the stay-at-home order, it is very convenient to try new activities out since you are in the comfort of your own home; without anyone watching.

Due to the pandemic, fitness boutique studios and yoga studios are streaming classes online at a usually more affordable rate. Between live-streamed classes and on-demand classes, there are many options available across all types of exercise.

#5 Incorporate Outdoor Workouts

For the runners and walkers reading this blog post, this tip is likely one that you are already doing. Those gym-goers who typically strength train and take indoor HIIT classes, challenge yourself, and incorporate more outdoor activities.

Being in nature, and/or the outdoors can help with burnout. Outdoor workouts can appeal to those looking to do either high or low impact exercise. For those looking for a vigorous challenge in the outdoors, consider trail running while safely practicing social distancing. If low-impact or moderate exercise is preferred, walk or stretch outside.

Even if the outdoor activity is not the most intense exercise, breaking up the day to include more outdoor time, will help refuel motivation for at-home exercise.

#6 Set new goals

If burnout still occurs after trying the items listed above, it might be time to set a new exercise goal. If you are still working on your pre-COVID19 goals, ask yourself if the goal is still relevant? Also, is the goal not motivating you anymore? If not, and you need to set a new goal, ask yourself the following questions:

What do I want to achieve? Where do I want to be in four weeks? What is something new I have not done before that I would like to be able to do? Once you set the goal, set specific, attainable, realistic, measurable, and time-specific steps to move forward (also known as SMART goals).

mental burnout and exercise

It is more familiar to associate mental burnout with job-related or personal stress. However, it is also possible to experience burnout from doing the same actions over a significant period without variety. If you combine that with being in the same environment while doing those repetitive activities, it can increase the likelihood of feeling burnout of the same old routine.  

How stress factors into burnout

Lack of variety is not the only factor that can contribute to burnout. Increased levels of subjective stress can be another factor. Many individuals are experiencing elevated levels of stress due to the pandemic.

This stress can contribute to decreased self-motivation towards at-home exercise routines. Furthermore, for some, exercise burnout might also relate to feeling tired of being plugged into technology. For example, consider the individuals who have worked virtually on a computer all day. The last thing they might want to do is sign up for a zoom class, or view on-demand workouts. This feeling of virtual burnout can also perpetuate the situation and decrease motivation.

Read also: Parasympathetic Vs Sympathetic Overtraining

Concluding Thoughts on exercise burnout

As time continues to pass and fitness centers remain closed, all exercisers must stay creative with their at-home exercise programs. This is essential to avoid burnout from working out at home.

Overall, these tips are meant to reignite at-home-exercise motivation and reduce mental and/or physical burnout from working out at home and/or a combination of factors. It is important to note that these are not the only solutions out there, but a few to get started. If these do not work for you, it is crucial to consider that the burnout might need even more action.

To counter mental fatigue and burnout, it is essential to incorporate daily self-care practices, mindfully take time to connect with friends and family, allow yourself to laugh and smile, and enjoy downtime. As a whole, all of these strategies will help sustain motivation and self-care during these unprecedented times.

The Author

Dana Bender

Dana Bender

Dana Bender, MS, NBC-HWC, ACSM, E-RYT. Dana works as a Wellness Strategy Manager with Vitality and has 15+ years experience in onsite fitness and wellness management. Dana is also a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach, an Adjunct Professor with Rowan University, an E-RYT 200 hour Registered Yoga Teacher, AFAA Group Exercise Instructor, ACSM Exercise Physiologist, and ACE Personal Trainer. Learn more about Dana at www.danabenderwellness.com.


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