Burnout: what's it all about?

Training too much can be as harmful as training too little, but how can you tell if your actions are damaging your body and mind – and what can be done to prevent it from happening?

1) You skip the gym

Giving the bench press the occasional swerve is natural. But if you suddenly don’t fancy working out at all, you might be severely frazzled. In this case, a change is as good as a rest. “Take time off and find another activity that gives you a sense of satisfaction,” recommends performance coach Richard Nugent of Twenty One Leadership. “Try a different sport or just take some walks outside. While your body recovers, you can discover a new motivation.”

2) You can’t walk

It’s all well and good to ‘feel the burn’, but if you’re still a physical wreck three days later, you probably require a rethink. “After high-intensity training you can be looking at 48 hours of muscular soreness,” says Mike Watts, Aston Villa’s head of performance. “But if it continues to go on longer than that, address it. Make sure you warm down fully, and try doing active recovery the day after exercise.”

More after the break

3) You’re addicted to ‘the hit’

The flip side to skipping the gym is working out too much. If you’re living on the leg press, take stock. “You can get hooked on that dopamine hit, and feel down if you miss a session,” says Karl Morris, a performance coach who works with Burnley and top golfers. “You end up chasing that feeling, deplete the system and it’s a vicious cycle. Evaluate why you train. Set a healthy goal, rather than chasing a high.”

4) You’ve been feeling down

A recent study from Tel Aviv University claimed that burnout and depression are connected, as “there is a physical, cognitive and emotional exhaustion”. So if you find yourself inexplicably miserable, examine your mental triggers for overtraining. “Are you filling a void elsewhere, or getting obsessed with body issues?” says Morris. “Have you stopped getting results? A mental stock-take can work wonders.”

5) You take things too seriously

Elite athletes who often burn out cite intense pressure to achieve. Even amateurs can experience the same thing. “Remember why you are training and plan it properly,” says Watts. “Have a goal, make it fun and timetable your recovery. If you start getting results again, you’ll feel rewarded.”

6) You’re getting injured or ill

If your body fails to recuperate properly, you can enter a ‘continued carbolic state’, which means you’re more likely to get ill or injured. “If you are unable to shake off colds, you may be overdoing things,” says Morris. “It’s a fine line. To get fit you need to overload the system, but if you go too far, fatigue reduces reaction time, [resulting in] injury and a lowered immune system.” Take a rest by swapping the hardcore stuff for some low-intensity activities.

7) You can’t sleep

Overtrain and the nervous system will become overstimulated, leading to sleepless nights and fatigue. “To counter this, increase relaxation time and consider it a vital part of your workout,” says Nugent. “You also shouldn’t excite yourself during this rest time by watching thrilling television or playing video games. Do something that’s actually restful."

For more football tips see:
The dangers of over training
Injury prevention training explained
How to fix your injuries
How to avoid injury during pre-season
How to avoid injury

Promo sitewide