10 ways to avoid exercise burnout

Photo taken from behind of a man running along a red running track

Keep your energy up, all the way to event day

Don't break stride with these expert tips from Exercise Physiologist, Andrew Cate.


What is exercise burnout?

Regular physical activity is the key to good health, but the body and mind can only take so much.

While “overtraining” refers to physical overload (more common in elite athletes), “burnout” is more of a motivational plunge, which can affect people of all fitness levels.

Exercise burnout can trigger low energy, fatigue and poor performance.

Here are some simple strategies you can adopt to keep your enthusiasm up and stay on track with your training routine.

1. Go easy

When you start a new exercise routine, it’s common to go all-out at maximum intensity. Everyone wants instant results!

But this can cause muscle pain, injury, and a rapid fall in motivation when the initial enthusiasm drops off.

The lesson? Don’t go too hard too early.

2. Change things up

It’s much easier to stay motivated if you constantly vary the type, intensity and duration of your activities.

You can also train at different locations, or at different times of the day, and alternate your training partners to mix things up.

Occasionally, try a completely new activity to maintain enthusiasm.

3. Set realistic expectations

It’s hard to stay motivated when your expectations of dramatic results have not been met.

Instead, try to focus on the long term, and look towards gradual improvement.

Set small, achievable goals to keep you on track and reward yourself when you meet these milestones!

4. Make time for recovery

Just as your body needs time to recover from exercise, so does your mind. Aim for 1-2 rest days each week to prevent exercise feeling like a burden.

This is especially important after days when you have trained intensely.

Indulge in activities that help you relax and can provide a mental escape from the commitment of training.

The image pictured shows the feet of two people walking through the bush.

5. Love what you do

Include fun, social elements to your fitness routine! Think team sports, bushwalking with your partner, or running with friends.

When exercise starts to feel like something you want to do, low motivation and burnout will be a thing of the past.

6. Listen to your body

Moderation is key to success in fitness and health. Start to recognise the times when you need to take a step back.

Make it a rule to give your body rest when you are sick or recovering from injury. What may seem like a step backwards can help your body and mind recuperate.

7. Focus on all aspects of fitness

A well-rounded training routine should focus on all aspects of fitness.

This includes activities that boost cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, and balance or core stability.

The broader your base of fitness, the more energised your mind and body will feel.

8. Keep track of your training

Keep a detailed log of the exercise you do, noting the type, intensity and duration of your training.

Include a rating of how you feel before and afterwards and note down any rest days.

This can help to reveal patterns in performance and highlight any potential overload.

9. Eat and sleep well

Adequate sleep and proper nutrition should be a priority to help your body and mind function at its best.

Aim for eight hours of quality sleep each night to allow the body to repair and restore itself.

Load up on high nutrient fruits, vegetables, plant fats and lean protein sources to fuel your training and recovery.

10. Enlist expert help

If you have a history of exercise burnout, or just struggle to stay motivated, it may help to consult with a personal trainer.

They can map out a training schedule that includes activities you enjoy, helping to reach your goals and maintain interest along the way.

The variety and sense of commitment you get from a trainer can also be a motivational boost.


Want more tips to support your training? Visit Blackmores Running hub for nutrition advice and recipes for your event day prep and recovery.

This content is provided by Blackmores, an official event partner of HBF Run for a Reason.