Are You Flirting With Burnout?

Eight signs you’re experiencing workout burnout with indoor cycling.

Recently, I noticed that one of the regulars in my Tuesday and Thursday cycling classes hadn’t been there for a while. Like clockwork, he used to arrive 15 minutes early to leisurely warm up on his preferred bike—for my classes and for the Monday and Wednesday classes another instructor teaches. In other words, he was a fixture at the noon weekday cycle classes...until he became a no-show.

When I ran into him in the club’s weight-training area last week, we said “hi” to each other, and he asked how my recent classes have been.

I told him I’d noticed he hadn’t been there for a while. “Did you burn out?” I ventured.

“Yes!” he said, his eyes widening with surprise. “I do indoor cycling every weekday, three seasons of the year so when the weather is nice, I need to do something else or it gets to me mentally.”

I told him that I understood completely and I thought he was smart to diversity his workouts. After all, doing the same thing day after day all year long can lead to physical burnout, as well as mental burnout. It’s not just that exercise monogamy can lead to exercise monotony; it’s also that your fitness results can plateau as your body grows accustomed to the challenge, and you could suffer an overuse injury from doing the same form of exercise too often. 

While the risk of burning out with indoor cycling might be a bit lower than with, say, running or swimming—since different cycle instructors’ styles and music selections provide variety—the risk is still clear and present.

And whether it’s physical burnout, mental burnout, or both, the phenomenon can throw a serious wrench into your fitness life and your long-term goals.

Here are eight signs that you’re experiencing workout burnout with indoor cycling:

  1. The thrill is gone; it used to be a blast but now it feels like a chore and a bore.
  1. You find yourself making excuses for why you have to miss a class.
  2. Every class feels like déjà vu all over again—the same old, same old moves and music.
  3. You are easily annoyed by instructors and resent their coaching cues and words of encouragement.
  4. You regularly feel disenchanted by your performance or the results you’re getting from your workouts.
  5. It’s been a while since you grooved on the endorphin release you used to regularly get from indoor cycling.
  6. When you do take an indoor cycling class, you tend to feel more exhausted than energized afterwards.
  7. After you cycle, you end up feeling cranky, moody, unmotivated, or down, for inexplicable reasons.

If you have any of these signs, it’s time to take action. If you don’t want to take a total hiatus from indoor cycling, drop one or two classes a week and substitute another activity, whether it’s running, tennis, a hip-hop dance class, or something else. You may even want to take several days off, perhaps even a week, from exercise altogether, just to give your mind and body a chance to recharge.

Everyone needs a break now and then! While you’re giving yourself some space, think about your current goals for indoor cycling and your fitness life in general. They may have changed since you last took stock. Zeroing in on your latest workout intentions can help you feel inspired again.

It also helps to diversify your cycling experience—by riding outside when the weather is nice, by going with friends and making it a social experience, or by taking classes from different instructors. Many instructors stick with interval rides so seekout those who mix it up with strength-training rides, endurance rides, race days, or recovery rides, to infuse a dose of freshness into your cycling life. Or, opt for a watts-based class over a beat-based ride. Ultimately, it’s your exercise life so it’s up to you to keep it interesting and inspiring. No one else can do that for you!

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