Spotting the signs of burnout in yourself

Burnout can sneak up on you. And that makes it a bigger problem than we realise. You don’t always notice the signs. But when you do, it’s already significantly impacting your physical and mental health. Part of the issue is that burnout can be different for different people. It’s hard to know exactly what it is you’re looking for.

Written by
Alex Pellew
Published on
March 29, 2023

As a fitness professional you know it’s not unusual to feel tired, achy and emotional after a workout. But at what point do those feelings of exhaustion become burnout? Add to that the stress of running your own business – too many clients; not enough free time; lack of sleep; and poor self-care – and it becomes a slippery slope.

Early signs of burnout

Most of us will experience stress at some periods in our lives. According to research, one in five UK workers feel unable to manage the pressure and stress of work.

As a fitness professional, stress could be caused by a number of things. A client not making as much progress as they’d hoped. Cancelled session. Getting injured. Losing sight of your work/life balance. All these things are manageable as a one-off, but if they keep happening, you could become overwhelmed.

We all deal with stress in different ways, but there are some tell-tale signs that will show you are on course for burnout. If you spot them, it’s time to take action.

Here are some signs, adapted from BMA:

  • Lack of motivation: More than struggling to get out of bed on a Monday morning, this feels like every day is an uphill battle.
  • More tired than usual: Burnout fatigue makes the easiest workout or activity feel incredibly challenging. You may find your heart rate increases more than normal.
  • Performance has dropped: If your running gets slower, your usual weights seem heavier, or your reps are dropping off, it could be a sign of burnout.
  • Bad attitude: Low mood, irritability, or negative thoughts about the things you usually love can be a sign. As is feeling overwhelmed, helpless or full of self-doubt.
  • Physical problems: When you’re stressed, it’s going to take its toll physically. You may get injured more frequently, take longer to recover, or have digestive problems. And while recovery aids such as cryotherapy or oxygen therapy will help, they can only go so far.

4 ways to avoid burnout

Once you’ve spotted the signs of burnout in yourself, it’s time to take action. This isn’t just a case of taking a few supplements, you need to get to the root of the problem.

Here are four steps you can take…

1. Make time for yourself

Have defined hours for work and defined hours for yourself. Flexibility is great, but you need to be firm about when you are (and aren’t) available. Try to stick to a daily routine and push back on times that are inconvenient for you.

2. Build strong client relationships

You are more than someone who just trains clients. You are someone they know and trust – and who they want to stay with for longer. Show them how much value you can bring. So, do talk to them about your partner, family, and interests. Don’t start offloading your problems onto them.

3. Prioritise sleep

The only way your body can recover mentally and physically is through sleep. Not getting enough sleep can lead to a host of problems from obesity to dementia. If you have trouble sleeping, start a sleep routine – going to bed at the same time each night, not looking at a screen before sleeping, and limiting daytime naps. Track your sleep on your Apple Watch or download an app like the highly rated Sleep Score.

4. Think about your fuel

Not eating and drinking the right things isn’t going to give you burnout, but it’s certainly not going to help. Make sure you eat a healthy diet, get enough calories, eat enough carbs and avoid drinking too much caffeine.

Join the Until community

We get it – running your own business can be hard. So, surrounding yourself with a community of like-minded freelance health and wellness professionals can help ease some of the burden. You can find the support you need to keep both your business and yourself on an even keel at Until.

Our membership benefits include access to cutting-edge facilities, a range of business support services, and co-working spaces so you can build a network of support. Find out how to join today.