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  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!