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Avoiding Beginner BurnoutLeave a Reply

You're ready to start pumping iron and get cardiovascularly fit, and you're excited about reaching your physique goals. You're highly motivated to work out, even driven. You're anxious to get started. You want to do it all, and you aren't afraid to give it all you've got. You're committed to getting that body you've dreamed about - no matter what!

Stop and take a moment to analyze all this. Do you see what's going on here? These are all thoughts and emotions. Whatever you end up doing with your body is clearly preceded by certain thoughts and emotions. In other words, your mind is moving your body into action. Look at it this way: Your mind is the control center for your body, and whatever you think will have an effect on your body.

On the surface, all your feelings about succeeding in the gym seem to be positive and desirable. And you're right, to an extent, but too much motivation can backfire, You can be so enthusiastic that you'll end up shooting yourself in the foot, and that's when those bulging pecs or that sleek thigh sweep will remain just what they are now a dream. I know what you must be thinking: "C'mon being motivated can't be bad. Did you drop some weight on your head?" just hear me out.

Bodybuilding is a new and exciting activity for you, and you can attain your specific fitness goals in a multitude of ways. But here's the problem: Though your mind seems to harbor limitless positive feelings for this new activity, your body is limited in what it can withstand. From a physiological perspective, you must look at training as a form of stress you place on your body. Your body will adapt favorably to this stress by getting bigger, stronger and more flexible, but only if you apply the right amount of stress and allow yourself to recuperate sufficiently between workouts. If you don't, you won't make gains and may even injure yourself.

Here's where all these positive emotions can become a problem. Because you're so motivated and excited, you end up working out at higher levels of intensity than your body can deal with. Before too long, you'll reach a plateau where you don't get any stronger or bigger or lose any more body fat. But because of your high degree of commitment and drive, you might figure that you aren't working hard enough or aren't as motivated as you should be. So you end up doing precisely the wrong thing you train even harder. That's when one of three things will happen: 1) You still won't make gains, 2) you end up injuring yourself, or 3) you quit because you aren't getting anywhere.

Reality Check

You can stop this vicious cycle by recognizing that your enthusiasm may take your body beyond its capabilities. Just like you need to curb your workout in an effort to avoid over-training, you need to approach your training sensibly and with a close of reality. Let your intuition guide you and see what kind of answers you come up with to the following questions:

  • How motivated do I need to be to reach my goal?
  • If I'm more motivated than that, will I reach my goal more quickly?
  • Am I able to force my body into responding more quickly than biologically possible?
  • Is more better?
  • Is rest necessary for progress?
  • If I take a few days off, will I lose all of what I gained?

The questions could go on and on, but the answer to each seems rather lucid. So approach both the mental and physical parts of your newfound activity with moderation, guided by reality.

Goal Setting

If you look to sport psychology for research on goal-setting, you'll find that many components need to be addressed. Not attending to each decreases the likelihood that you'll reach your goal, but I wouldn't necessarily advise a beginner to attend to all of them. Here are my top picks: Though you should have a long-term goal, don't get bogged down with it. For the most part, it's quite a ways off. Focus on short-term goals, such as learning proper technique. Take it one step at a time and enjoy the process of becoming more proficient in some of the more complex exercises. As you get better at them, you'll notice how much stronger you actually are.


Focus on maintaining confidence in your ability to reach your physique goals; developing a plan of attack for your workouts can help. When practicing your technique, elicit a mental picture as well. See yourself perform the new exercises with perfect form and use positive self-talk to ground the mental exercise. Finally, seek to understand the reasons why you should do certain things.


You're highly committed to your training now, and the secret is to maintain this commitment and use it in the right quantity so it doesn't end up hurting you in the long run. Besides being unnecessary, continually thinking about working out can interfere with other aspects of your life and certainly won't help you attain your fitness goals any more quickly. To avoid burning out, restrict your commitment to and thoughts about training to only those times when it's necessary - about an hour before and during your workout. You could also engage in some relaxation training to help clear your mind, or simply find other activities to immerse yourself in when you aren't exercising. Don't force the issue; be realistic about your approach. Your life should never revolve around only one activity, even if it is bodybuilding.

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