We all know the feeling. You start off the year with the best of intentions to train hard and achieve your goals. The motivation is there, the excitement is real. But then life happens. Work gets busy, responsibilities pile up, and before you know it you're slogging through workouts, dreading the thought of lacing up your shoes. Burnout and overtraining are real risks for even the most dedicated of athletes.
The truth is, as much as we want to push ourselves to the limit, our bodies and minds need rest. If we don't build in recovery, we end up breaking down instead of building up. The good news is there are some simple strategies you can use to avoid burnout and overtraining so you can stay healthy, motivated, and performing at your best. Here are a few of our favorites.
Listen to Your Body: Pay Attention to the Signs
As athletes, we constantly push ourselves to improve and achieve more. But if we're not careful, that drive can lead to burnout or overtraining. The signs aren't always obvious, so we have to listen to our body.
Feeling excessively tired or irritable? Having trouble sleeping or concentrating? Loss of motivation or appetite? These can all be signs you need to cut back. Overtraining often creeps up slowly, so pay attention if workouts that used to feel easy now seem difficult or your performance starts to decline.
- Take extra rest days. Adding an additional rest day or two each week can help you recover and prevent burnout.
- Reduce intensity and volume. Cut your workout duration, decrease the amount of weight lifted, or run fewer miles. Even small decreases can help.
- Focus on sleep and nutrition. Prioritize getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night and eating a balanced diet with plenty of whole foods. Your body needs the proper rest and fuel to recover.
The key is catching the symptoms early. It's always better to reduce activity for a short time rather than push through and end up injured or ill. We have to remember that progress happens during rest, not just during workouts.
Staying in tune with your body and making your health a priority will allow you to continue doing what you love for life. The gains and achievements will be that much sweeter when you're able to sustain them over the long run without sacrificing your wellbeing. Our bodies and minds will thank us for it!
Get Enough Rest and Recovery
We all know that rest and recovery are crucial to avoiding burnout and overtraining, but it can be hard to actually make it a priority. We want to push ourselves to improve and meet our goals. But the truth is, our bodies and minds need downtime to recharge and renew.
My training partners and I have found a few strategies that help ensure we get adequate rest:
- Take one to two days off from training each week. This could be light activity like yoga or a walk, but avoid intense workouts. Our bodies repair and strengthen during rest days, so they're just as important as workout days.
- Get enough sleep every night. Most athletes need at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep to function at their best. Sleep is when our bodies release hormones to build muscle, repair tissue damage, and consolidate memories from our workouts. Lack of sleep hampers performance and recovery.
- Do occasional longer rest periods. Every 4 to 6 weeks, take 3 to 5 days completely off from training. This extended rest allows inflammation to decrease, hormones to rebalance, and motivation to rebuild. We always feel recharged and eager to resume our routine after a longer break.
- Cross-train and do active recovery. On some days, do an easy bike ride, swim or hike instead of your normal routine. These activities increase blood flow to your muscles without taxing them. They actually aid recovery while still providing mental benefits.
- Stretch, use a foam roller, and get massages. Self-myofascial release techniques and massages help loosen tight muscles, relieve soreness, and promote circulation. Make time for regular stretching and massage—your body will thank you for it.
Rest and recovery have allowed us to push our limits, avoid injury and burnout, and come back stronger after each break. Make downtime a priority in your own training, and you'll reap the benefits of improved performance and a longer, healthier athletic career.
Periodize Your Training
Cycle Your Workouts
We've all been there—you start an exercise routine and are diligent for weeks or months, seeing great progress. But then your motivation starts to wane, your results plateau, and you eventually burn out. The key to avoiding this and overtraining is to periodize your workouts by cycling through different phases.
Some ways we like to modify our workouts include:
-Changing the mode of exercise (e.g. swimming instead of running)
-Increasing or decreasing the intensity (e.g. adding intervals or hills)
-Changing the duration (e.g. increasing distance or time)
-Modifying the frequency (e.g. from 3 to 4 days a week)
Be sure to schedule in 1-2 days of complete rest from exercise each week. Your body needs time to recover in order to adapt to your workouts. Listen to your body and take an extra rest day if you're feeling excessively sore or fatigued.
Periodizing your workouts will help prevent overtraining, reduce injury risk, and avoid burnout. By continually changing your workouts every month or so, you'll maintain your motivation and continue progressing toward your fitness goals. Keep things fresh and exciting—your body and mind will thank you!
Cross-Train and Try New Exercises
To avoid overtraining and burnout, we need to mix up our workouts. Doing the same routine repeatedly can lead to injury, boredom, and plateau. Cross-training and trying new exercises are two of the best ways to keep things interesting while still improving our fitness.
Cross-training means switching between different activities like running, biking, and swimming. We might run on Mondays and Wednesdays, bike on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and swim on Fridays. Cross-training provides active recovery and works our muscles in new ways. It also allows us to exercise more frequently without overtraining. We can get an effective cardio workout almost daily by alternating activities.
Try New Exercises
In addition to cross-training, we should continuously try new exercises for our main activities. For running, incorporate interval training, hill repeats, and trail running in place of steady runs. For strength training, swap in new lifts like overhead presses, lateral raises, and bent-over rows. Take a barre, yoga, or Pilates class. Jump rope or train with a speed ladder. Work one-legged exercises like pistol squats or single-leg deadlifts into our routine.
New exercises challenge our muscles in different ways and make workouts more engaging and fun. They help avoid plateaus by constantly providing new stimulus. We can find endless exercise ideas on YouTube or in training books and articles. Start with just one new exercise at a time, and be sure to learn proper form to avoid injury.
Mixing up our workouts with cross-training and new exercises is key to staying on track with our fitness goals. It keeps us from getting bored while still allowing us to improve and push ourselves. When we feel enthusiastic about exercise again and are making progress, we're less likely to experience burnout or overtraining. Keep exploring new options and changing your routine, and you'll get fitter and healthier in the long run.
Stay Motivated With an Online Personal Trainer
When we start an exercise routine, it’s easy to become burnt out or overtrained if we’re not careful.
Working with a personal trainer, even virtually, is a great way to stay accountable and motivated. They can provide guidance on:
- Developing a balanced routine tailored to our needs and goals.
- Pushing us when we need it but also recognizing when we need rest.
- Answering our questions and giving us feedback on our form.
- Keeping us on track by scheduling regular check-ins and evaluations.
Online personal trainers are affordable and convenient since we can do sessions from anywhere over video chat.
Set Achievable Goals
Unrealistic goals are a recipe for frustration and giving up. We should:
- Focus on progress, not perfection. Celebrate small wins along the way.
- Be specific in our goals but also flexible. For example, aim for working out 3 times a week but don't beat ourselves up if we only make it twice.
- Re-evaluate and modify our goals as needed. Our needs and abilities will change over time.
- Ask our trainer for guidance on setting the right goals based on our current fitness level and priorities. They can help keep us on a path to success.
Following these tips for balancing our routine, mixing things up and setting the right goals will help ensure we stay motivated for the long run. Overtraining and burnout don't stand a chance!
We offer custom training plans to help you reach your fitness goals. We customize your plan based on your current capabilities and an attainable timeline.
You've put in the work and dedication to achieve your fitness goals, so don't let overtraining and burnout derail you. Listen to your body and make rest days a priority. Mix up your routine to keep things interesting. Spend time with loved ones who support you. Stay positive and focused on how far you've come. We're all going to have ups and downs in our journey, so be kind to yourself. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, stay consistent, and continue making progress at your own pace. You've come this far, now keep that motivation and momentum going by avoiding overtraining. Stay strong and keep inspiring us with your dedication and perseverance. The finish line is closer than you think!
Want to learn more about fitness, nutrition and overall health? Join us now at Team Dynasty!