β†’, Q&A Wednesday, Running, Work It Out!β†’Q&A Wednesday: Avoiding Workout Burnout

Q&A Wednesday: Avoiding Workout Burnout

Burning out too soon could turn a sanctuary into a nightmare...

Q: I have been going through the back and forth of working out then falling off and I feel I am ready to begin again and be dedicated to it.When I read your “story” I sat and my desk and cried. I am 200lbs and 5’3 how much time a day or a week should I dedicate to working out? Should I do more cardio? You always hear people warn of doing too much and then burning out. So what is you recommendation? 1 hour per day Β or every other day?

First, don’t cry!

[insert huggy warm and fuzzy moment]

Second, burn out happens. It happens to everyone. It happens to me.

To me, burn out always comes whenever I’m first embracing something new… like, right before I get used to making it a habit. I think it’s all in the attitude with which we approach something. It’s new, it’s exciting, I’m going to go all in every day and see how far I can go in it. That kind of energy can only take you so far. It can only last for so long. Before you know it, it’s no longer new, it’s no longer exciting, it no longer has its spark and (remember this part!) that “new new” energy has run out.

The point at which working out has lost its spark for you needs to be the point where you are compelled to continue going because it has become a regular part of your daily routine. You don’t question it… you just do it. (Sorry, Nike.) When I wake up in the morning, I brush my teeth, take my dog out, put on my work out clothes and hit the gym. I don’t even think twice about it. There was a point where it had a spark, and I was excited about burning the hell out of my arms and abs… let me tell you. That “spark” has long gone.

It’s actually become so regular in my day to day habit that I could sleepwalk my way through my morning routine. I always know that I just get up and between taking out the dog and waking up the little one, I get in my work out. Doing it this way means that I don’t get lost in the “Oh, I’ll do it later” game. I’m familiar with that game and since I always lose… I’d rather not play.

Maybe because I let that “it takes 30 days to develop a new habit” thing kick in, I don’t deal with it as much. Maybe it’s because I’m not in the gym lifting weights for two hours (for now.) Who knows.

So, to the first question… how much time a week should you spend working out? I’d have to answer, how much do you think you can stand? What are your goals?

I work out 7 days a week. I have some form of activity (or four) scheduled for every day. Even if it’s just running or just yoga (or Shimmy!)… I’m still doing something every day. I know myself well enough to know that I need that, or otherwise I’ll skip a day. (Yes, I manipulate myself like that. It’s all bad.)

For someone who’s just beginning, I say start out slow. Only you can know what “slow” means for you. If slow means three days a week, then stick to that “Monday/Wednesday/Friday” routine and never let up on it. Never skip. Never give yourself a reason to set it aside for anything. If you’ve had a long day, that work out better be something you look forward to or otherwise, you’ll skip it.

People always want to set a specific amount of cardio for “too much” and “not enough,” but I don’t think it’s that simple. If I run 7 miles every other morning (I don’t… yet), that’s going to seem excessive to some people but to the marathon runners… they know the deal. When I could only stand to do 15 minutes of cardio, someone who runs 7 miles a day might not understand that. However,when I was doing 15 minutes of cardio each day, it was because I was a beginner. 15 minutes was all I could take. I wasn’t ashamed of that… I just stuck it out and listened to my body. I dealt with what I knew I could do, pushed myself to what I believed to be my limit, then tried to do that much plus an extra inch each time.

I could give you a timeline and a schedule and all that other great stuff, but the reality is that a generic timeline is not made specifically for you… and you deserve (and your body demands) that much. It wouldn’t take into account your specific needs, your problems and your goals. It wouldn’t account for your scheduling conflicts and your roadblocks. So… it all rests on your shoulders to figure that stuff out. It’s not the glamorous and easy answer you were hoping for, I bet.

If you want to create a routine that will keep you active without the burnout, I do have three simple tips for you:

1) Do a different workout each day – If you have a gym and you’re on that 3-day plan, make Monday your “arm/chest/back” day, Wednesday your “core” day and Friday your “leg/booty” day. I know some people love circuit training (that’s where you hit as many machines as possible in one rotation), but if you go to the gym every day hitting that same monotonous routine… you will bore yourself to death… and that’s just as bad as – if not worse than – a burn out. Keep switching it up!

2) Pay very close attention to your body – when you work out, pay attention to the muscles you’re using. When I do squats, I watch my legs and booty when I do them. I’m excited by my progress to come, and the progress I’ve experienced. That excitement carries through to the next time I work out, because I’ve got new body parts to stare at– I mean… new body parts to work on.

3) Do not ignore your body’s basic signals — If you’re going to be doing those marathon cardio sessions… don’t be silly and do them on an empty stomach. You will get dizzy, you will faint and you will do more damage than good. Don’t do them every day, either. There are experienced cardio lovers who may get away with that (whether or not that’s a good thing is for another post), but that’s not ideal for someone who’s trying to avoid burning out. Sure, you want to work yourself out, but you want to get yourself to the point where working out is a regular thing first. Going that hard in the paint can come later.

All that to say… all the answers to the questions you asked can be found if you listen closely enough to your own body: don’t push yourself too hard, respect your position as a beginner and look forward to the time you’ll be spending with your body! This’ll make it much more enjoyable, and you’ll avoid your basic burn outs!

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By | 2017-06-10T11:45:17+00:00 May 30th, 2013|Exercise 101, Q&A Wednesday, Running, Work It Out!|26 Comments

About the Author:

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes food and fitness, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is also certified in sports nutrition by Precision Nutrition. She now lives in New York with her husband and children, and is working on her 6th and 7th certifications because she likes having alphabet soup at the end of her name.


  1. "Mira Luma" November 17, 2010 at 3:53 PM - Reply

    GREAT info, Erika! I recently experienced workout burnout myself, and found myself working out about 4 times a week to once a week down to nothing! I started back the workouts again and have been alternating my workout schedule doing both Walk Away The Pounds (WATP) and Tae-Bo, but I know I need to do something else to mix it up or I’ll get bored again. I am thinking of either joining a gym or investing in weights and perhaps an elliptical machine. Winter in Minnesota is not an ideal time to walk/run outdoors necessarily, so working out for now will be indoors. Thanks, again, for the great tips!

    • Erika November 18, 2010 at 6:19 AM - Reply

      I can DEFINITELY understand that cold weather, because I know that if I can stand it… I’ll NEVER deal with cold weather again, LOL!

      Luckily, there are tons of ways to get in a good amount of cardio indoors, and the weights’ll help with fat maintenance… before you know it, once the spring hits you’ll be ready to jump right back into everything!

  2. monica November 17, 2010 at 7:50 PM - Reply

    this post is right on time! i’m suffering from some serious burnout right now and it sux πŸ™

    • Erika November 18, 2010 at 6:15 AM - Reply

      Yep. Give yourself a day or two to recharge, and then dive right back into it. Take your time, don’t rush, and you’ll be fine! πŸ™‚

  3. freda November 18, 2010 at 11:09 AM - Reply

    Womderful post!

  4. Eboni November 18, 2010 at 12:12 PM - Reply

    Thank You! While you may not acknowledge it you are a great inspiration! I already started, but with food…I’m eating my raw carrots and broccoli now! MmmmMmmm! ;-)Kepp up the excellent work!

  5. Madame: The Journey November 19, 2010 at 1:31 PM - Reply

    I’m so glad that you pointed out that essentially, there is no singular road map for fitness or working out, for all. It takes true self-assessment, time, education and devotion to discover what works for us individually. And even if one does decide to enlist the help of someone already in a routine or even a fitness professional, actively participating in designing a personalized plan – is going to be the best way to manage your fitness life. Great post!

    • Erika November 19, 2010 at 1:47 PM - Reply

      Oh, you and I both know – you more so than me, now – we are all different with different needs and different goals, and trying to follow a catch all would do nothing but harm and bring nothing but disappointment. No sense in letting people who genuinely care believe the wrong thing, ya know?

  6. Green Afro Diva January 19, 2011 at 11:00 PM - Reply

    I posted something similar to this on my own blog http://greenafrodiva.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/tips-on-how-to-decrease-your-ass-mass/ I know that sometimes even I slip up and miss a day or so and end up going back to square one. One thing that helps me is to remember to do pushups and situps everynight starting with 10 and working you way up. I used to be in the army and this was what we would do to build muscle especially if we miss a run day. Great post and helpful tips!

  7. Kaycee June 8, 2011 at 12:48 AM - Reply

    I am fortunate to have a great gym membership on a college campus. There are a million classes and as many pieces of equipment and weights. So boredom is never an issue for me.

    My campus allows people not affiliated with the gym to buy a membership. Maybe that could be a remedy for variety?

  8. Loretta November 30, 2011 at 10:47 PM - Reply

    Brilliant post. I couldn’t agree more. Thanks!!

  9. Starry January 29, 2012 at 7:12 AM - Reply

    Hey, this was a great post! I am getting into an exercise routine and was wondering when I would get bored of it – I have a bad habit of starting up something and really enjoying it… then *poof!* the enjoyment disappears and so does the exercising. So, this time, I’m starting slow and taking your advice on turning it into a habit. Currently, I do 15mins of pilates-style exercise and 5 minutes on an exercise bike every day. Eh, writing it down makes it sound a bit pathetic :-/ BUT! It is what I can do right now and I’m working on increasing my exercising ability.

  10. Sabina March 26, 2012 at 12:31 PM - Reply

    Hi!. I recently started zumba and nia dance and hip hop dance. all three available at a studio I go to. I bought a one month package and since I am usually super cheap i am going to make the most of it and I go 5 times a week. I started doing doubles on weekends, zumba and hiphop back to back, but we will see how long that lasts. I never get bored, each instructor brings something new and by the end of a one hr class I am dripping with sweat. its a tough work out!! check it out.

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