Its that time of year again, the days are shorter, colder, and we find ourselves surrounded by an abundance of sugary, tempting treats as we enter the festive months and holiday parties. We may find ourselves having a harder time waking up and heading out for those early workouts on dark frigid mornings. Many of us search for something new to keep us motivated and active during the winter months. Joining a new gym, starting a fitness challenge, buying a monthly spin pass - all are great ways to keep us moving, happy and burning off those extra sugar cookies…right?
Staying active and motivated year round is great, and for so many of us it’s a means of keeping our minds as much as our bodies healthy. Being part of a fitness challenge or training program is a great way for us to maintain a healthy routine, make new friends, challenge ourselves, feel inspired, set some goals and feel accountable by constantly showing up. But it can come with a cost. Sometimes these highly regimented programs can be too demanding, and we find ourselves feeling drained and spread too thin. A term commonly known as “burnout”.
Burnout is defined as a physical or mental collapse caused by overwork, overtraining or stress. It is easy to develop, as warning signs are often masked by our excitement at the results we are seeing in the gym, and our motivation to complete the program. ‘No excuses!’
Next thing we know we are waking up an hour earlier to fit in that early workout, eating on the go, restricting our food choices, saying ‘no’ to nights out with friends, and coming home at the end of the day feeling physically and emotionally drained. Sound familiar?
Motivation, constancy, eating right and regular exercise are all important components of health, but the most paradigm piece in achieving long lasting health & fitness is balance.
Knowing what to watch out for is the first step in determining if you are on the road to burnout. You may notice your resting heart rate is higher than normal, workouts seem harder than usual, or you require a longer time to recover. Foggy thinking and emotional changes such as irritability, sadness or disinterest are common, and activities that you once enjoyed may no longer excite you. You may feel frequently under the weather, chronically worn out, and overwhelmed by workload or tasks that never used to phase you. Loss of motivation, feelings of bitterness, withdrawal and changes in appetite are all other warning signs. If you associate with 3 or more of these, you may want to consider intervention / preventative steps.
The first thing to consider is taking a break or dialling down the intensity of your workouts. This can be for a few days, weeks, or even a season, depending on your activities and the main source of burnout. Other tips include, ensuring extra sleep, and perhaps cross training or restorative yoga/mobility work rather than intense exercise. Nourishing your body with whole foods, drinking lots of water, ensuring you are eating enough, and at the right times are all important. Take time for other hobbies, getaways and indulgences. Celebrate your accomplishments, big or small! It is easy to become overly hard on ourselves when leading such regimented schedules. Take time to dream up your next goal. Incorporate regular self-care practices. Journalling, baths, massage, acupuncture are all great ways to rebalance and recharge. Finally, consider boosting your resilience with herbs and nutrients that support your capacity to deal with stress and combat exhaustion.
About the Author: Dr. Rae LaBerge DTCM, RAc, CHN Holistic Nutrition Consultant
Dr. Rae works holistically to help others reach their health, wellness & fitness goals. Blending traditional chinese medicine with modern science to balance and restore, thus returning the body to its natural rhythms to achieve optimum health, performance and lifestyle. She works closely with her patients and has a special interest in the treatment of conditions such as burnout, sleep disturbances, hormone imbalance, digestive conditions, anxiety, depression, athletic performance, pain and injuries.