5 Ways You Know You're Burned Out on Exercise

Woman runner resting on a curb
Woman runner resting on a curb. Daniela Jovanovska-Hristovska/Getty Images

If you've ever woken up to face your morning workout routine only to consider rolling over and going back to bed, you've probably experienced burnout.

We all have those days when we don't want to exercise, but burnout is a different matter. It's the feeling that anything (watching grass grow, counting ceiling tiles) sounds better than the usual routine.

Here are five signs you might be burned out on exercise.

1. You Keep Stalling

One sure sign that you might be burned out is procrastinating. Maybe you even put on your workout clothes, thinking you'll eventually get to your workout, but you continue to find other things to do. At some point, you end up deciding it's too late to do it anyway, so maybe tomorrow.

Burnout Solution

Keep it simple. If you're burned out, the last thing you want to do is tax your body with a long, intense workout. Instead, set some small goals and let that be your workout. Some ideas:

  • Take a walk around the block
  • Take 5 minutes and do some of your favorite stretches
  • Walk up and down the stairs for 5 laps
  • Do 10 squats, 10 lunges, and 10 pushups and call it a day

2. You're Just Not Feeling It

Exercise isn't always a joyful experience but, if you've been working out for a long time, you can usually find something positive about your workouts.

When you're burned out, nothing looks good about exercise and there's no workout you can think of that will get rid of that disenchanted feeling.

Burnout Solution

Try something new. When the love is gone, the last thing you want to do is go back to your usual workouts. This is the time to break out the bike and go for a leisurely ride, or drive to a park and just walk around at whatever pace you want. Play tennis with a friend or just toss a ball in the backyard.

Sometimes, giving yourself a break from all the rules is just what you need to remember that it can feel good to move your body again.

3. You're Exhausted

When you start feeling that fatigue, not just physical but mental fatigue, that may be a sign you're burning out. It's a general blah feeling that makes you just want to lie in bed until someone makes you get up.

Burnout Solution

Rest. Many exercisers think they have to workout every day and a lot of us do. But that's one thing that can lead to burnout if you don't give your body, and your mind, enough recovery time. 

Give yourself permission to rest, whether you actually lie down and binge-watch a TV show or you just putter around your house or yard. Take structured exercise off the table, at least for the day, and see how you feel the next day.

Sometimes two or three days off in a row can make a huge difference when you come back to your routine.

4. You're More Tired After Your Workout Than Before

One thing a workout should do is energize you.

Sure, there are high-intensity workouts that may leave you drained, but most of your workouts should leave you feeling better than you did before you exercised.

If you feel worse after your workout, that's a sign you might be headed towards burnout.

Burnout Solution

This is the time to dial it down. Forget hardcore workouts or heavy weight training. Now is the time to do something soothing for your body. Try a gentle yoga workout or find a Pilates video on YouTube. Think of this as active recovery, a time for your mind to rest while you soothe a tired, overworked body.

5. You Feel Moody or Irritable

When you're overworked and overtrained, it's normal to lash out at others even if you may not know why you're doing it.

Your body is tired and that makes you less tolerant to the world around you. Any little thing may set you off and that may make you feel even more frustrated with yourself.

Burnout Solution

Do something that feels good to your body. Some ideas:

  • Take a bath or sit in a hot tub
  • Get a massage or other spa treatment
  • Take a nap
  • Soak your feet
  • Have sex

Burnout happens to most of us from time to time and the solutions are simple: take some time off or try something new. Give yourself a few days of rest. Take a stroll, do some light stretching or get a massage. You'll come back feeling refreshed and energized.

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