Tag Archives: yoga

Exercise burnout: what is it, and how can it be avoided?

15 Aug

Exercise burnout is a term I hear all the time amongst colleagues and clients.  I hear stories of folks who have been going to the gym; doing their routine day in and day out, over and over, and are getting quite sick and tired of it.  The workout that once brought them relief from the stress of a long day now is a looming monster.  It serves as another obstacle and another stress bomb to face before unwinding for the evening.  The pleasure and satisfaction once gleaned from pumping iron, hitting the cardio machines, and getting a good sweat has long been replaced with boredom, annoyance, resentment, and anger.  For some, the burnout goes beyond the mental exhaustion and carries over to physical exhaustion as well.  People overuse, overwork, and over train their bodies to the point of intense exhaustion, bodily fatigue, and injury.  Without time off the body has no time to rest and repair itself, leaving it always playing catch-up and never operating at 100%.  [and if you want to BE your best, you gotta BRING your best!]

Why does this happen to so many people and so often?  What causes people to reach the point of such profound burnout?  I believe it stems from the lack of understanding the importance of two concepts: diversity and rest.  The first of the two, diversity in exercise,  is crucial to practice in order to avoid burnout, boredom, and injury.  Most people get into a routine at the gym: they come in, use certain machines [because they know and feel comfortable with them] and then leave.  They do this day in and day out.  While ANY exercise/activity will initially produce change and results, eventually the body gets used to the same repetitive motion/action [our bodies are so much smarter than we give them credit for!!] and the benefits begin to diminish.  What once produced significant calorie burn and muscle hypertrophy will, over time, no longer be challenging.  Exercise is meant to be progressive, that is changing and becoming more challenging as a person’s fitness level increases.  Without progression a person’s fitness level becomes “stuck”.  The elliptical machine might still say you’re burning X number of calories every time you get on it, but the calorie counters on cardio machines are rarely accurate and do not take into account enough information to make a precise assessment of what’s going on during the workout. 

In order to maximize the benefits of exercise, you MUST change it up!!! Don’t get comfortable using that one specific machine [3rd elliptical from the left, right by the TV that always plays BRAVO], instead discover something new! Give your body and your mind a new challenge.  Hop on a machine that you’ve never used before.  Its okay, it won’t bite!  And if you don’t know how to use it, just start pedaling and something will happen!  All else fails, ask a staff member at your gym to show you how to properly use it!   If that doesn’t sound appealing, find an activity outdoors that piques your interest: rollerblading, biking, swimming, hiking, walking, running.  If you’ve never done it before, try it!! The key is to always change it up.  Instead of spinning 5 days a week, try using the stair master, treadmill or ARC trainer.   If you’re a hard-core runner, try spin on one of your cardio days!  Something else to consider is group fitness classes; many gyms offer a wide variety of classes that are different from what goes on out on the cardio/weight room floor.   This also applies to strength training; if you are simply lifting barbells and dumbbells, try a body weight circuit or a Bootcamp class.  Increase sets, reps, and try doing unilateral exercises instead of bilateral.  Throwing a change into the mix will confuse your body and produce greater results.  And not only will this keep you from getting bored, but it will prevent you from getting injured.  Because exercise diversity forces you to work different muscles in different ways, it strengthens the body from different angles and gives all body parts a chance to work.   No single muscle (or muscle group) will be overused or over trained, and no muscle will be left under trained or ignored.

The second factor I believe contributes to exercise burnout is lack of rest.  When people get serious about working out and get into a groove, they rarely give themselves time to rest and repair.   They are so caught up with and focused on their goal [losing weight, gaining muscle, training for an event, transforming their bodies and minds, etc] that they may start to believe a day of rest will put them behind schedule and a day further away from reaching their goal.  Let me say: REST IS A MUST!!!  Exercise puts the body through the wringer: muscle fibers rip and tear apart during strength training, and we take a beating moving around during cardio exercise.  The work does not happen when we are in the gym, on the court, track or street.  The work- the lean muscle repair and growth, and fat loss- happen when we are asleep and otherwise at rest.  One day of FULL rest from exercise per week is recommended for people working out at a moderate intensity on a regular basis.  I personally believe that of the 7 days in a week, one day should be full rest and another should be an “Active Recovery” day.  Active Recovery can be anything that is LOW impact, does not raise the heart rate to its maximal levels, and is considered fun!  For my active rest, I enjoy going for a walk, taking a yoga class, or doing the elliptical for 15-20 minutes on a low setting.  Other folks enjoy doing Zumba or other dance classes for active recovery.  The remaining 5 days can be devoted to training well and training hard. 

Exercise burnout can cause people to abandon their workout routine all together.   This can lead to further deviation from a healthy lifestyle- becoming inactive, abandoning healthy eating habits, and allowing the mental muscle to weaken considerably.  In extreme cases, focus and determination become lost to apathy and self-loathing.  Don’t let yourself get to that point!!  If you feel yourself getting there, stop and check the nature of your routine.  Are you bored? Do you need to diversify your workout? Go ahead, try something new TODAY!  Are you letting yourself rest? Or have you been exercising hard every day for the past 2+ weeks?? Take a day of rest; it will do you a world of good! 

Have you ever experienced exercise burnout? What caused it? And how did you combat it?

components of fitness: do you treat them equally?

14 Jul

There are several key components to fitness- cardiovascular exercise, strength/resistance training, flexibility- and everyone naturally gravitates to their favorite.  Some people love to do cardio; they want to run, bike, or swim for every workout and have little or no desire to do much else.  Others would gladly spend every day in the weight room, and consider a workout filled with lifting heavy to be a success.  Still others can be found in the group fitness rooms and private studios practicing Yoga and taking Pilates (and other similar) classes.  Personally, my poison is running.  For me, nothing compares to logging mile after mile and ending it soaked with sweat, enveloped by a Runner’s High.

 No matter which component we like best, most of the time we pay so much attention to one area that we end up neglecting other components of fitness.   You know what I’m talking about.  You could do your exercise of choice all day long, but it might take a friend and a large sum of money for you to consider doing the other things you don’t find to be “fun”.  We are all guilty of it. And we dont always realize how detrimental this is to our overall fitness level, and ability to perform at our best.

One of my favorite quotes that I write/say/think about often is “That which we resist persists.”  I apply it to so many situations in life, and this one is no exception.  The components of fitness which we ignore, put off, and neglect are those which will persistently find their way back into our lives.  Don’t like resistance training?  You won’t get that nice firm, toned look you’re going for….toning muscle means you need to HAVE some in the first place.   And that means lifting weights.  Loathe cardio workouts?  No matter how heavy you lift, nothing can replace the myriad benefits of raising your heart rate.  Don’t be surprised when you can’t make it up a few flights of stairs without huffing and puffing.   Can’t be bothered with stretching/flexibility?  Your range of motion, ability to move, and lift properly is going to be severely compromised.   When we ignore ANY component of fitness we are allowing ourselves to work in an inefficient manner, and ultimately are putting ourselves at risk for injury.   As if that’s not reason enough to start diversifying, giving attention to the less “fun” parts of fitness will make you better at what you love to do.   When I started incorporating more flexibility work into my routine, I was amazed to find that my running stride improved and I was even able to take some time off my mile. 

Bottom line: the core components of fitness are each important in their own right.  Each serve a unique purpose and all complement one another.  We may prefer one over the others but we owe it to our body to be creative and find a way to incorporate them ALL.  Sign up for a class, get a gym buddy, buy a pass to a Yoga studio, etc.    Give yourself a new challenge!

What component of fitness is your least favorite?  How do/will you incorporate it into your routine?