T Nation

The Burnout Factor

I’ve noticed quite a few threads of individuals who have hit the wall…physically and mentally…in their training programs.

This happens to everyone at some point or another. The iron game, as everyone knows, is not just physically demanding but psycologically demanding as well. We are the select few that go about this sport with the precision of NASA working on the next space cruiser.

I’ve found that when I’ve hit the wall in my training, the following things have helped me get back on track.

1. Take up a new sport...or revisit an old sport outside of the 'ol iron for a while. If you used to play hoops, join a local Y and play some competitive B-ball for a month or two. When I became disgusted with my own progress a year or two ago, I played hockey for about 4 months and didn't hit the gym once. When I finally went back to the gym I had a fresh outlook and a clear plan.

2. Put away the darned food journal! The mental toll on our psyche from constantly obsessing over each meal is almost as demanding as the actual workout itself. Eat what you like, within reason, and don't worry about it for a while. In addition to saving a tree or two, you'll clear your head and be fully ready to engage in "attack" mode when you return.

3. Stay away from forums like this! The whole point of a "break" is not just to give your body a break physically, but give your mind a break emotionally. If you must have your reading fix, focus on subjects that have nothing to do with weight training or fitness or whathaveyou. For those of you still in school, you might even want to focus more on your studies...ok, maybe you won't want to go that far, but you get the idea.

4. Accomplish something that you might never have been able to do if you were devoting all your spare time to your physique. You know how your wife is bugging you to remodel the kitchen? Go ahead! Knock yourself out! Or maybe you can build that new deck you've been wanting for the last 5 years. You get the idea.

The bottom line is that we ALL need a break, even from something we love doing. I don't think for one minute that Bill Roberts and TC doesn't run screaming from the office from time to time to take in the nearest ball game, or movie, or go-go bar...SOMETHING to take your mind off of your mind, if only for a little while.

Hope this helps.

Great post Mike! I completely agree with what you said. I’m enjoying a break right now and I’m starting to play a little bit more basketball just to break things up.

BTW, as a former NASA employee, I had to LOL when I heard you mention NASA and precision in the same sentence.

Personally, I'm enjoying my low key training right now and come June, I will be at full speed, ready to go.

So true, Mike. I am a fortunate person in that I have other interests to bide my time. I have my art, and I will be getting back into MA training later in the summer.

It's been my mantra of late on the forum: GET out of the gym, and DO something else. There are other ways to be physically active besides weight training, you know. And these "other things" can be just as rewarding, if not more so in that they can provide a "well-rounded" life.

Excellent post my bra. Becuase I am in a rather “hectic” situation, starting a new job, relocating, finishing up things at my old job/research, I have downgraded my training to detraining on the heals of a hard-core keto cut which i am phasing out (but still cutting)…I have had the good fortune of having to pull some third shift CVS nights to make extra cash in the interim and that has screwed me even moreso in terms of rest/recovery. What i find refresing to do during this time, is plan (on paper) my next training routine etc…this way, I have a good and solid plan when i attack with higher intensity once again come Mid June or so.
Thanks for the advice bro
Much appreciated

I would just like to echo Vain’s comments about planning out your next routine. Nothing gets me more pumped up about a future program than seeing every detail written down on paper before I start.

Exacellent call Vain!

Not to be the spelling police here…OK, but just for a minute. Bra is a two coconut halves with elastic thing to keep the headlights from illuminating the toes. Brah is the Hawaiian, and then surfer, and now common permutation of Bro, which is like Bubba to those south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Taking a break is a cool idea. It works for about anything, tough school assignments, stress from work, and training burnout. Life will go on just fine without being anal about every detail of every calorie and every rep.

Glad I could be of help to you all.

Jason - that's TOO FUNNY that I mentioned NASA in my example and that's where you used to work. I have a nice, neat view of the world that says NASA has the smartest cookies in the universe working for it...if that's not true, please don't spoil my illusion or else I'll have to find some other organization to believe in. Oh, wait a minute, how about Biotest? Yeah, that's the ticket!

Yeah evverybody burn their food logs! I don’t know how you guys can not go crazy with those things. :stuck_out_tongue:

Just adding my kudos for a great post. I’m going to go the “cross-training” route this summer…

To Jason Norcross:
I try and read most of your postings, because you seem to have a lot of knowledge and experience when it comes to exercise. How long of a break have you taken from lifting and aren’t you afraid that you will lose strength and mass?

Are you guys trying to tell me something?

BTW. NASA was my customer when I worked in the Aerospace industry. I even participated in the Challenger investigation/coverup.

I’m not taking a break from lifting. I’m just keeping the volume lower and also mixing things up a bit. I just switched gyms, so I’m giving some of the new equipment a try. For example, instead of standard deads, I tried out the Hammer Strength Deadlift station.

I'm only planning on taking a full week off at the end of May because I'm camping Memorial Day weekend and then moving during the next week. I don't want to be sore for my big moving days.

As a side note though, I think that most people suffering from real burnout could use up to a month of time off. Of course this is variable, but 1 week is minimum and 2 or more can be optimal.

My break right now is not having training journal and stuff,just walk in the gym,if wanna work chest,pick 3 good chest exercises,do them not too hard…same goes for the other body parts.Taking it easy,my mind needs rest from stress of finals,which imma done with.

Could’nt agree more. I just finished a 10 day break from lifting and I feel recharged. I still watched my diet and went for two runs during that time, but I gave my body a break from the heavy lifting. I actually like to take a week off from lifting about every two months. Basically I lift as heavy and as intensly as I can for 6-8 weeks and then take a week’s rest. I never lose any lbm and in fact feel I sometimes gain a little during the break. More importantly , it’s good for the mind to take a break and not be so disciplined for a week or so, every once in a while.

I’ve been lifting for the better part of 22 years, now, along with other forms of exercise. I’ve been implementing items 1,2, and 4 all along. If I have a special activity and miss a workout, no big deal. I find more value in keeping the exercise habit for as much of my life as possible rather than trying to achieve my ultimate potential. I like the idea of achieving the maximum results with the minimum amount of gym time.


Great post! I wish I read this in January. I was so burned out, just thinking about oatmeal and chicken breast and workout made me physically ill. I trained hard and ate clean (no cheating) for over 3 months when I just couldn't do it anymore.

And I totally underestimated the importance of mental break as well as physical one. Although I took off almost 2 months, mentally I was always calculating calories or thinking about new routines and reading and visiting T-mag forums. I couldn't really get back to the swing of things until I took 2 weeks off and went to a place where I couldn't get online or had no phone services.

And only then I felt "normal" and ready. And I'm doing OK now, and will start 5x5 on Sunday. :) Although the down time felt like "waste" initially, everything happens for a reason, and I think I learned from it.