Health and Wellbeing

How to beat exercise burnout

Feb 1 2022

We all have those days when we want to bail on exercise and flop onto the sofa for a night with Netflix instead. But most of the time we’re able to push through it. A short break from our workout routine, or a motivational pep talk helps us bounce back and continue working towards our fitness goals. Exercise burnout, however, is different and a lot harder to bounce back from. Here’s how to avoid it.

What is exercise burnout?

Exercise burnout is a feeling of fatigue that won’t go away. It can also come in the guise of a complete lack of interest or motivation, to the point that you might consider giving exercise up completely. It’s often a result of overtraining and under-recovery, and it can affect your physical and mental health.

Regular exercise is pivotal to good health, but your body can only take so much. Over-training without rest or the appropriate fuel, will place a stress on your body that can trigger a range of symptoms such as physical and mental exhaustion, muscle and joint soreness, poor performance and injury.

Not sure if you’re just tired or experiencing exercise burnout?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Have I been feeling unusually tired or sore?
  • Have I noticed a clear decrease in my physical performance lately?
  • Do I feel energised after my workout or drained?
  • Do I feel less motivated towards my fitness goals?
  • Have I noticed a niggling ache or pain that won’t go away?

If the above sounds like you then you could be experiencing exercise burnout.

How can you prevent exercise burnout?

Take your time. Forcing yourself to power through can often make the situation worse. Exercise burnout is your mind and body’s way of telling you to pause, reflect and implement a new strategy – a strategy that’s better suited to you, your body, and your lifestyle. After all, exercise is supposed to strengthen and energise you mentally and physically. Not break you down.

Here are some simple strategies you can use to prevent exercise burnout and stay on track with your exercise goals.

Start slowly but surely

Don’t go too hard, too early! It can be so tempting to start out at maximum intensity in a quest to achieve immediate results. But you’re more likely to lose enthusiasm further down the line. If you’re starting a new sport, setting a new goal or getting back into the swing of things after some time off, then take care to ease into your training plan at a healthy pace.

Check in on your body

When you exercise too much or too hard for a prolonged period of time, your body can become susceptible to an increased risk of injury to your joints, ligaments and tendons. With a rise in mileage and intensity, a runner training for a marathon might develop a weakness as their body tires and starts to compensate. This weakness might start in their foot for example. As they continue to run with an increasingly tired body, the weakness could develop into a stress fracture. It’s incredibly common and something we see a lot.

It’s important to take the time to check in on your body – to prevent injuries and identify any early warning signs of exercise burnout. That’s why our expert physiotherapists offer BodyCheck MOT. A bespoke assessment designed to identify your individual strengths and weaknesses, catch underlying problems early, and create a personalised lifestyle and performance programme to keep your body working at its very best.

Change things up

Mix up your routine! It will be easier to stay motivated if you vary the type of workout, intensity, and duration of your activities. Doing the same exercises day in and day out can get boring and can also lead to performance plateau. It’s also worth training at different locations and switching up your training partners every now and again. Keep it fun and engaging!

Set realistic goals

Unrealistic goals commonly trigger exercise burnout. It becomes hard to stay motivated when you’ve been training for a while and your goal still seems so far away. Setting your sights on a big goal is fantastic but outlining clear short-term goals as steppingstones is a great way to maintain motivation. Having smaller measurable goals allows you to track your progress, and the more specific your goal, the clearer your path to achieving it becomes.

Make time for recovery

Rest, rest, and more rest! For your muscles to repair and strengthen, your body needs to get rid of all the damaged cells and waste products that were produced during your workout and replace them with new and stronger cells. But… it can’t work its magic without some time out. Sleep is regarded as one of the most important factors when it comes to physical recovery, especially if you are exercising. It is during this time when 95% of growth hormones  (a key building block in muscle recovery) are released, allowing you to ease those aches and pains and continue through your training. And just as your body needs time to recover from exercise, so does your mind. Aim for 1-2 rest days each week.

Fuel your body

Consuming enough calories, staying hydrated and packing in the right amount of protein, carbohydrates, antioxidants and omega-3 fats is pivotal to mental and muscle recovery.

Keep up with your calories. If you don’t consume enough calories, then your body’s ability to repair and grow muscle tissue is impaired – it struggles to function as well as it could. Stay hydrated. Water supports all the metabolic functions and nutrient transfers in your body and fluid replacement is important to stay on top of after sweating through exercise. Eat Omega-3 fats. Including Omega-3 fats in your diet regularly will help to keep muscle and joint inflammation at bay. And try eating protein after your workout. Exercise triggers the breakdown and resynthesis of the muscle protein so it’s beneficial to supply your body with enough amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) to rebuild the proteins and make new muscle.

Stress uses up many nutrients, so this combined with poor diet and lifestyle choices may result in you feeling nutrient depleted, exhausted, in pain or demotivated. The good news is that by adding certain nutrients to your plate you can beat this vicious stress cycle and prevent burnout.


If you listen carefully, your body will let you know what it needs when it needs it. Get started with a BodyCheck assessment.