Sounds straightforward, but you must create the time.
I meet with a lot of people that are in burnout. They say they used to exercise. Some tell me they were triathletes before they got a demanding job, but that they don’t have the time required to stay fit today.When we discuss their burnout, they realize they have a greater need to exercise than they had before, and not less. But when to do it? They say there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
Exercise is the single most effective thing you can do
Research has documented, hands down, that exercise is the number one thing you can do to keep yourself from burning out. If you’ve been in burnout, you know you don’t want to go back there. It was difficult to recover and you swore you’d never find yourself there again. Or, maybe you’re in burnout now and you’re trying to find your way out.
Interestingly, it’s not getting more sleep, or eating a balanced diet, or relaxing by reading before bed that will prevent you from burning out. All these activities will help, so implement them into your routine if you haven’t already done so. But hands down, exercise is what will help keep you on your feet.
I see it time after time in my practice. People say they used to exercise but that they lost the habit two years ago or even eight weeks ago. When they tell me they used to exercise, I ask them how long they’ve been in serious burnout. Turns out, it’s typically the same amount of time that they haven’t been exercising regularly.
Work out regularly
Now, let’s not kid ourselves. When I say exercise, I mean you have to regularly work out. What does this look like? Ideally, it might mean that you work-out with a personal trainer if you have the financial ability to do so. I say this because I don’t want to add one more thing to your already full plate when you are leading a busy life.
Said another way, I don’t want you to have to think while you exercise. I want you to just show up at the gym in your t-shirt and shorts and do whatever you’re told to do, three times a week. A personal trainer knows what you need to do to keep your body humming. You might join a group of three or four people and work out with a trainer if that fits your pocket book better.
If you can’t afford a personal trainer or can’t find one, the next best thing is to work out in a class. Why a class? Same reason. I don’t want you to have to think. Just show up and do what the instructor tells you to do. A word of caution here, though. Make sure your technique is adequately monitored because I don’t want you to end up injured and on the bench.
If you are knowledgeable and like designing your own workouts, then by all means keep at it. But if you aren’t working out, all the knowledge in the world isn’t necessarily going to help you get to the gym.
Choose an activity you enjoy
What kind of exercise qualifies? Most importantly, you have to enjoy it. One physiotherapist told me you have to get your heart rate up for at least 200 minutes a week. Another said that a combination of daily walks and swimming three times a week is sufficient.
It’s difficult at the beginning to get yourself organized. But many people have told me that putting a system in place is the toughest part. Things like finding a gym bag to use, deciding what to put in it, and determining how often to wash your towel are all stumbling blocks. But once you’ve got a system in place, you’re laughing.
I have told you all this because you are prone to burnout, and exercise is the most important thing you can do to help stave it off. You’ve been there before. You’re possibly reading this blog post because you are there again.
Set routine dates in your calendar
So, how can you make yourself exercise? One thing I have observed is that people keep a date with a trainer. Some trainers will drop you if you don’t show up, even if you pay for the sessions. Others will educate you if don’t show up, which may help you prioritize attending your sessions.
Somehow, you need to find the motivation to keep regular fitness dates, whether you have a trainer or not. You need to view your scheduled time at the gym like you would view an appointment with one of your clients. It’s not enough to just get the date into your calendar. You need to make the date stick.
One method you might want to explore using is to colour the time slot in your calendar. Maybe you can come to view an orange time slot as an, “Oh. Crap. I’m going to burnout if I ditch the gym today.”
You might want to meet someone else at the gym so you can avoid going it alone. Maybe make a date with your husband to meet at swim club. Maybe leave both gym bags in one car so the driver can’t let the other person down. Maybe bring only one car so you depend on each other to get home.
Choose a time that works
Struggling to find a time that will work for you? Research shows that 75% of people that work out in the morning stick with it, whereas only 25% of people that work out after work stick with it. What this suggests is that you might want to hit the gym before work if you have the choice. Trouble getting up early only three mornings a week? Then you might find it easier to go to the gym five mornings a week.
Of course, lunch hour is another possibility for people with tight schedules and maybe children at home.
Another idea, if you have the flexibility in your day, might be to hit the gym at 10.30 am to avoid the rush. Be creative. It doesn’t matter how you get there, or when you get there, but you do have to get there.
It takes 3 to 4 weeks to form a habit
A useful piece of information is that it takes three to four weeks to make a habit. A former Olympian taught me that after three or four weeks of working out regularly, your body will start asking to go the gym and you won’t have to force yourself to go anymore.
If you are heading for burnout, then start exercising. Commit to starting, and build your fitness level gradually over time.
Stick with it. Your mind and your body will thank you.
— Dr. Patricia Turner, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta