Exercise is supposed to contribute to your health, not take away from it. That’s why we’ve put together this complete guide on workout burnout, including information on how to identify the signs and symptoms, what’s needed to fix it and make a proper recovery, and strategies to prevent it from happening in the future.

What Is Workout Burnout?

Workout burnout (also known as exercise burnout or overtraining syndrome) is a condition where athletes and fitness enthusiasts experience fatigue and a decline in performance but continue to train. This is common in people who focus on a single sport, participate in endurance sports, or when there’s a sudden increase in training.

Exercise burnout is thought to be a result of the physical stress and mental stress of training and occurs when a person fails to recover properly from a workout. Failing to recover from a training session is called under-recovery and can cause hormone changes, immune system suppression, physical exhaustion, and psychological changes.  

How Do You Know if You Have Exercise Burnout? 

You’ll know you have exercise burnout if you experience fatigue, low motivation, mood changes, and reduced performance and productivity but are continuing to train or are increasing your training. These are just some of the signs and symptoms of exercise burnout—find the complete list below.

Signs and symptoms of exercise burnout:

  • Fatigue
  • Decreased fitness performance
  • Difficulty finishing usual workout
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Longer recovery time than usual
  • Discomfort or pain in places where there shouldn’t be
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Elevated resting heart rate
  • Frequently under the weather, sick, or ill
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Sleeping but not feeling rested
  • Difficulty focusing or decreased performance at work
  • Mood changes (e.g. lack of enthusiasm, negative mental state, increased anger or irritability, etc.)
  • Uncharacteristic changes to your workout schedule (e.g. skipping workouts or making excuses not to do a class when you’re usually very consistent)

Do I Have Exercise Burnout? [Questionnaire]

If you think you might be burnt out from excessive exercise, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you do intense workouts or activities five to seven times a week?
  2. Do you feel like your body can’t keep up with the demands of your workout?
  3. Do you feel fatigued after your workouts?
  4. Do you feel like your performance is declining despite maintaining consistency or progressing your workouts?
  5. Do you forgo rest (or active rest) days?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, you might be experiencing exercise burnout. You can get a better sense of your burnout through fitness technology. Trackers like Whoop monitor your body's recovery, strain, sleep, and health. These types of wearables give you data on your wellness to help you gauge your level of burnout in the most personalized way possible.

Should You Exercise If You Have Burnout?

You can still exercise if you have workout burnout, but the intensity of exercise needs to be low to moderate (e.g. Gentle Yoga, Restorative Yoga, walking, etc.). Doing light activity when burnt out can actually help you get past it. Moving, mobilizing, and getting blood flowing can help alleviate some of the symptoms of burnout and help you sleep better as well.

How Do You Fix Burnout From Working Out?

Workout burnout is your body’s way of telling you it needs a break. This means the  best way to fix burnout from working out is to rest. The duration of your rest and recovery will depend on how burnt out you are and could range from four to 12 weeks. In this time period, you should refrain from doing the type of workouts that have caused your burnout. You can beat burnout by giving your body enough time to properly recover—including both muscle recovery and mental recovery. 

You can return to the intensity level of your previous workouts once the signs and symptoms of burnout have resolved completely. This includes both physical and mental exhaustion symptoms.

How Do You Prevent Workout Burnout?

You can prevent burnout by taking certain precautions that prioritize your physical and mental health as part of your fitness routine. These precautions include working out with a buddy, checking in with yourself often, reframing your mindset, and more. We’ve included a full list of strategies to help you avoid burnout below.

Strategies to prevent burnout:

1. Set S.M.A.R.T. fitness goals 

In today’s age of instant gratification as the norm, it can be hard for people to be patient with their fitness goals. They might think that the harder and faster they work out, the quicker they’ll achieve their goals, when in fact, this is the type of approach to fitness that’ll result in burnout. Instead, set S.M.A.R.T. fitness goals that support a healthy and balanced routine. Understand that progress takes time (including time for proper rest and recovery).

2. Include active recovery in your workout routine

Active recovery is an essential part of any workout routine and should be prioritized to avoid burnout and help your muscles recover. Give yourself, your body, your mind, and your muscles adequate time to recover by scheduling active recovery days as part of your weekly workout plan. Take full rest days if (and when) needed.

Examples of active recovery activities to choose from:

Here’s an example of a balanced workout plan for general health and maintenance:

  • Monday: 30-minute weight training session
  • Tuesday: 45 minutes of strength and cardio
  • Wednesday: 30 minutes of active recovery (e.g. a brisk walk)
  • Thursday: 45 minutes of strength and cardio
  • Friday: 30 minutes of active recovery (e.g. yoga)
  • Saturday: 30 minutes of active recovery (e.g. a brisk walk)
  • Sunday: Rest day

Remember to adjust the intensity of each workout to best suit your fitness level and energy level so you don’t experience burnout.

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3. Fuel your workout and help muscle recovery with proper nutrition

Food is fuel, and your body needs it both before and after a workout. Prioritize eating complex carbohydrates, natural sugars, and protein before a workout to fuel your workout. After your workout, reach for protein and complex carbs to nourish your body and help with muscle tissue recovery.

4. Try new forms of activity

Trying new fitness trends helps to mix up your exercise routine and prevent you from overtraining or overusing certain muscle groups. Be open to all forms of physical activity (specifically ones you don’t frequent), and include them as part of your weekly exercise routine. For example, if running is your usual form of exercise, consider going for a swim or taking a Dance Cardio class as a replacement for one of your runs throughout the week.

5. Reframe your mindset

If you feel like you have to hit your fitness hard every single day, you might need to reframe your mindset and know that some days, adequate exercise looks like lower-intensity activity. Incorporating low-intensity exercise into your workout routine won’t slow down your progress—it’ll actually get you to your goals faster because with adequate recovery time, you come back stronger and perform better.

6. Check in with yourself often

Between the business of life and all the distractions around us, it can be easy to lose touch with yourself and forget to check in. Taking a second to slow down and check in with yourself and your body will increase your mind-body connection so you can be more intuitive and intentional with your fitness. 

7. Get a workout buddy

Working out with a buddy (or multiple training partners) can help you regulate your workout intensity and frequency and minimize the risk of burnout. Having multiple people involved in the decision-making process can help everyone make healthier choices when it comes to fitness. Check in with your workout buddy often to see how they’re feeling and support each other in creating a healthy and balanced workout routine.

8. Work with a fitness coach 

Working with a fitness coach or personal trainer can help prevent workout burnout. Since they’re experts in the industry, they’ll put you on a balanced workout program and can detect signs of exercise burnout early on, which helps prevent you from getting to the point of complete burnout.

lululemon Studio’s personal trainers create individual workout plans for each Member based on your ability, goals, preferences, limitations, and equipment available at home. 

Avoid Workout Burnout With lululemon Studio

lululemon Studio has a wide variety of workouts to help you stay active every day in a healthy and balanced way. We have thousands of active recovery classes, such as yoga, Tai chi, stretching, and more to help you stay active every day without overdoing it. These classes help you break up your intense workouts so you can avoid burnout and feel your best.

Stay active in a healthy and balanced way with lululemon Studio. Become a member today and get FREE access to our library of over 10,000 classes and over 60 workout categories for 30 days.

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