Looking at my schedule for the day, I had his feeling of dread for what was to come. I saw a wall of clients booked, and was identifying the ones that I knew would drain me. That’s exactly when I knew I was headed for burnout, or maybe I was already there.
Now you might be saying, “what’s the big deal with a full schedule. Sounds like you’re killing it.” Yea, I was killing it, and killing myself mentally and physically at the same time.
I was up early, I was home late, I was depressed, irritable, and exhausted. Everything about the work I was doing, one that I loved, started to get on my nerves, and it was mostly the small things that usually roll right off my back. At the end of each day, I felt like I had nothing left to give to other people, let alone myself. It almost seemed like that passion that sparked at the beginning of my career eroded away to nothing.
Burnout isn’t just simply overworking or putting in too much time into what you do. It comes from the mental, physical and emotional exhaustion you feel accumulate from stress. We all get tired, but when it becomes this chronic thing, that’s when it’s time to take a step back.
Burnout isn’t necessarily the result of one or two things. It’s more like death by a thousand paper cuts. We’re passionate about what we do as trainers and coaches. That can be detrimental to our own well-being when shit piles up and we don’t have an avenue to unload and recharge.
So how did we get there? Usually poor choices lead us there.
Poor Scheduling Boundaries
One of the more common schedules that trainers face is the split shift, where we work early in the morning before our clients go to work, and late at night when clients are home. We work when others don’t. After a certain point, it can be rough to gear yourself up to head back to the gym at night, especially if its day after day.
One other pitfall that happens is that we will schedule clients at inconvenient times for ourselves, where it creeps into that “me time.” We’ll sacrifice our own time for a client. Now once or twice in a pinch its a good idea to be flexible for your client, but if it becomes habit, you can start to head down that resentment path. And that path is no fun for anyone.
Here’s the thing, you have to find the schedule that works best for you. You can choose to only work in the mornings, or only work in the evenings. You could also pick and choose which days you are scheduled for which shift. For the most part we have control over when we want to take clients. You’d be surprised at how flexible clients can be.
If you want to have a long, fulfilling career, stick to those scheduling boundaries.
Lack of Sleep/Rest
There’s struggling to fall asleep and theres just not going to sleep beacuse youre still working. Both are signs or reasons you may be headed for burnout. For some trainers, lack of sleep is looked at as a badge of honor, as if there is some trophy for who runs themselves ragged the most.
Screw that! There is no award for who is the most tired at the end of the day.
We tell our clients that sleep and recovery are a big part of seeing results, and yet we do the complete opposite. We need sleep to recover from the day to day stresses, because when we don’t, little things just eat away at you and we can become overwhelmed and irritable from that exhaustion.
No Self Care/Me Time
Like most people, we are terrible at taking time for ourselves, or giving ourselves a little “me” time. One are this shows up is in our own workouts. I have been guilty of pushing back or skipping my workout because other things came up, like scheduling a client when I shouldn’t have.
Yes, certain situations come up where you may need to rework some things, but when it becomes a habit to push off workouts, or other things on your self care sheet, it becomes an issue.
How many times this month have you put off a workout or other self care practice because you had x,y, & z to do? Probably more than you’d like to admit.
Self care is more than just our physical workouts. There are mental, emotional and social self care habits we can use too. For me it’s taking care of my mental health via CBT(cognitive behavioral therapy). I don’t miss a day.
It’s writing, it’s training, it’s giving myself some “ME” time to recharge. When I wasn’t taking care of me, i was not a happy camper.
I suffered, but so did my clients. Develop some of the self care habits that will allow you to recharge, even if its something as simple at pressing pause for 5 minutes during the day to close your eyes and breathe.
Trying to do it All
Have you ever tried to do everything, only for it to result in you doing nothing because you were so overwhelmed? Yea me too!
We’re setting ourselves up for failure when we take on too many tasks at once as we spread ourselves too thin. Sometimes it can be helpful to say no to projects that are offered or clients that want to train. Yea it may like you’re missing out on something, but if you don’t have the physical and mental bandwidth to take it on, then its not for you.
In the same breathe as trying to do it all, there is going at it all alone and not asking for any help. We try to do it all ourselves.
Personal training can be a lonely business as you are one on one with your client, and other trainers may be seen as competition depending on where you are. So asking for help makes it seem like you dont have all the answers, and who wants to look like they odnt have it all together.
However, I believe we’re stronger when we can admit we don’t have an answer and we can leverage our network to help solve a problem. You can’t know everything and there are always new and unique client scenarios that you’re going to have to work through. If you can get answers from peers, go for it.
No Room for Error
Shit is hard right now. There’s a pandemic we’re dealing with, along with stress of gyms staying open and not knowing if you’ll be able to continue coaching clients. There’s no need to pile on top of that stress by setting unrealistic expectations of yourself and what you’re capable of.
We don’t need to set unattainable goals that leave your frustrated and worn down. We get burned out because we try to do things perfectly each time, and there never seems to be a level that’s good enough
We often make lists of what needs to get done, whether its programming for a client, or posting on social media (because we feel we have to) or just daily tasks around the house unrelated to work. We build up that we have to do everything otherwise the day is a failure.
Do yourself a favor and settle for not getting to everything. Did you get your big rocks done? Yea? Then you’re good. Other things are a bonus. Give yourself a little rook for error and treat yourself with self compassion. We all have a lot on our plates. More than we realize.
It may be a challenge to recognize the signs that you’re headed for burnout, and you might just chalk it up to being tired or the normal stress of being an adult with responsibilities, but as you can see, burnout goes much deeper than that. Its not just a bad day here or there, its a series of events that just grinds you down, and that you never recover from.
Set yourself up for success by avoiding the situations listed, especially that self care/me time. It will help set you up for more mental and emotional success.