Are Your Workouts Burning You Out? Mix It Up!

We had been working out, grinding as usual through a set of heavy front squats. Jan, my client of nearly five years was knocking them out. It was a typical busy Tuesday at our gym and I felt fortunate that we were able to grab a squat rack at that time. Over the din of the typical gym ambience, salsa music loud and vibrant emanated from the aerobics room breaking up the monotony of the piped in music and conversation.

"One more set!" I said. She nodded her acknowledgement at my instruction, but seemed less enthusiastic about doing it.  Fatigue I thought to myself, she's probably just wearing down. "One more J, let's get it!" "Focus!" I yelled. She nodded again. I noticed that she kept glancing back, to the aerobics room where the music was coming from. "Is it too loud?" I asked her.  

She shook her head.

The weight was heavy so there was no way I was letting her go back under the bar while she was so clearly distracted. “What's wrong?” I asked her. “I like the music!” she said enthusiastically. This was the most excited I had seen her during the entire workout. She looked genuinely happy as she stared at the class in the aerobics room. "Do you want to go back there?" I asked.

Her whole face lit up as she answered yes.

She seemed just as surprised to hear the question as I found myself asking it. And just like that she was gone, skipping excitedly to the aerobics room. The truth is, I should have seen the signs. She had always been a hard worker, punctual and coachable. But in the previous weeks I had noticed that she didn't seem as excited as she had in the past, she was going through the motions but there was no joy. I glanced around the gym and noticed that there were many other dour faces.

Which leads me to another disturbing trend that I've noticed for quite sometime--young athletes who only participate in one activity or sport.

"Variety is the very spice of life, that, gives it all it's flavor." ~ William Cowper

Our athletes have begun to specialize at a younger and younger age. I often ask parents if their children play any other sports and many say that they focus on just one. This leads to an alarming number of repetitive movement injuries in our young athletes. Since no two sports are completely alike, children who participate in multiple sports learn to incorporate different movements, patterns that are inherent to each particular sport.

Basically they become more well rounded because they are required to use different skill sets. Children are also less likely to get burned out as frequently when they are doing a wide variety of activities. It really doesn't matter what the activity, just try to keep some variety in their programs.

The truth is there are many paths to good health. Of course, much of it depends on your goals, but ultimately we should enjoy what we are doing. Too often we start a program or a diet, simply because we believe it will make us look better. We don't enjoy it or look forward to it. We think this is just what we are supposed to do—endure it. We need to ask ourselves such questions as, “Is this going to make me feel good?" “Are there other things I can do to help myself reach my goals?”

If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have said if you want to live a healthy life just come to the gym and train.  However, there are many paths to reach your goals. Now I encourage my clients to do as many things as possible, as long as they enjoy it. If you try something and don't like it, try something else. I often say I'm just one of the spokes in the wheel, an important one, but a spoke nonetheless. 

Sometime later Jan and I had resumed our training together, we laughed about what happened that day. She told me that after a few months, she started to miss training. She realized she needed some variety in her program to keep it enjoyable and to keep her engaged.  She would later add in other group classes as well all with my blessing and encouragement.

~ Coach Allister Buchanan