Fitness professionals are astutely aware of the need to program rest days for their clients, but how likely are they to do the same for themselves? If a client is serious about their progress, they need to be serious about their recovery as well. We know this. We plan for it. We encourage it. We reinforce it. As careful as fitness professionals are to prioritize physical rest for clients, we don’t always do the same for ourselves. Let’s be honest, fitness professionals struggle to press pause and rejuvenate. Mostly, because our professions are highly dynamic and we are constantly on the move with our clients. We also make a commitment to prioritize our own fitness routines. However, we would be well-served to seize opportunities to simply rest and relax in order to prevent burnout.

It’s break-time when…

Ideally, fitness professionals can and should schedule rest days for themselves each week – whatever that might look like to each person. For some, it’s active rest that might include a gentle walk, restorative yoga, or general stretching. For others, it might include a massage, a cup of tea and a good book, or social time with colleagues and friends. The point is – each trainer, like each of our clients, has different needs and different preferences. It’s important that the individual honor those needs and preferences and rest how and when it is necessary.

Here are 8 common warning signs that indicate it’s time to take a break.

  1. A waning interest in engaging in usual activities
  2. Constant fatigue even after a full night’s rest/experiencing general malaise
  3. Disinterest or boredom with exercise routine
  4. A lack of enthusiasm for meeting with clients
  5. Feeling a sense of being overwhelmed even with no additional duties assigned/expected
  6. Reduced ability to manage or deal with stress
  7. Emotional exhaustion
  8. Physical ailments (high blood pressure, vulnerability to illness, etc.

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Sidestep Burnout

Stress is pervasive; it isn’t possible to eradicate it from our daily or professional experiences. However, it is possible to practice consistent techniques and develop a level of awareness that allows you to be comfortable with hitting the pause button before burnout sets in. Just as you do with your clients, take a thoughtful approach to your own exercise routine, stress management efforts, and general daily balance. Consider taking the following actions to help you reset your mind and body.

  1. Modify your exercise routine every 8-12 weeks (this timeframe suggestion may not apply if you are training for a specific event or competition).
  2. Schedule transition time between clients (at least 20 minutes between sessions)
  3. Practice five-minute daily reflections (describe what you accomplished that day, what you want to focus on for the next day, and how you feel emotionally and physically).
  4. Schedule at least one rest day a week from physical exercise.
  5. Prioritize your to do list in smaller chunks (and delegate what you can).
  6. Post your “why” in a visible spot in your car, studio, home office, etc.
  7. Perform a social media cleanse. Evaluate whether or not the other individuals you follow reflect similar values and ideals. Do they bring you joy? Contribute to your learning? If not, it might be time to quietly part ways. Social media can be toxic if not thoughtfully managed.
  8. Plan time off from work (not just on the weekends but as a mini vacation or staycation).
  9. Set and honor boundaries with clients (i.e. “I am available to reply to messages between the hours of X and Y”).
  10. Talk to someone – a trusted colleague, a friend, or a professional.

Taking one or more of these actions may not guarantee that you’ll never experience burnout, but it may help you create a bit of freedom and balance so that burnout becomes less common AND you become capable of recognizing how to avoid it before it sets. As fitness professionals, we are passionately committed to helping our clients achieve their best life – physically, mentally, and emotionally. We often prioritize their needs over our own and if we do that consistently, we are detracting from the meaning of our work. Remember, you are enough. You do enough. Period.

Erin Nitschke

Erin Nitschke