Feeling burned out? You're not alone. In today's fast-paced society, burnout is becoming increasingly common. According to the World Health Organization, burnout is "a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed" (2019). In a study by the American Psychological Association (APA), 79% of workers have experienced the negative impact of job-related stress within the previous month (2021). While there is limited research on burnout among personal trainers and coaches, one study reported that almost 30% of fitness professionals, specifically strength and conditioning coaches and personal trainers, reported work-related and client-related burnout (2022). In this post, we'll explore the symptoms and impact of burnout on your mental health and stress levels. And don't worry; we'll also provide practical tips on addressing burnout and taking control of your well-being.
What is burnout?
Burnout is a state of mental, physical, or emotional exhaustion caused by prolonged stress. Burnout can happen in any area of our lives that causes stress. Often, it is the result of our work life. If you are a student-athlete, it can also result from stress caused by the demands of school and athletics without proper rest and recovery. Sometimes burnout can stem from a culmination of things in our lives and can affect anyone if we are not proactive in dealing with the stress and demands of modern life.
Causes of burnout
Factors that contribute to burnout among personal trainers may include:
Long work hours: Fitness professionals often work long hours, including early mornings, late evenings, and weekends to accommodate client schedules and ensure clients successfully reach their goals. These extended hours can lead to fatigue and a lack of work-life balance, especially considering other factors like daily commutes.
High client expectations: Clients often have high expectations of their trainers, which may sometimes disregard their responsibility to reach their goals. A trainer's job is to help you become fitter, improve performance, develop healthier habits, and decrease the risk of disease or injury. All these expectations can create pressure to deliver results and maintain a certain level of performance.
Emotional and psychological demands: All clients have goals that fitness professionals work closely with clients to help them achieve. Sometimes these physical health goals are closely intertwined with an obstacle that may be more emotional or mental. Trainers must be able to navigate these situations with empathy and give encouragement. Additionally, life happens, and there are days when clients may show up to sessions discouraged or apathetic. In these instances, personal trainers need to be good sounding boards and engage with the client to help them continue pursuing their goals while not being dismissive of the difficulty the client may be experiencing. Providing this support can be emotionally and psychologically taxing for the personal trainer over time.
Pressure to maintain appearance: Fitness professionals are often expected to maintain a specific appearance. This expectation can create additional stress, especially when other parts of the job require so much from the trainer.
Limited career growth opportunities: Some fitness professionals may feel stuck in their careers with limited opportunities for advancement or growth. This feeling of being stuck can lead to feelings of frustration and burnout.
Financial instability: Many fitness professionals work as independent contractors or in part-time roles. The lack of consistency that comes with a salary can lead to financial instability and uncertainty, adding to the stress and pressure of the job.
Symptoms of burnout
Symptoms of burnout among fitness professionals can vary from person to person, but some common signs and symptoms include:
Physical and emotional exhaustion: Feeling physically and emotionally drained and lacking energy or motivation.
Reduced performance: Struggling to maintain the same level of performance, making mistakes, or inability to meet client expectations.
Negative attitude: Feeling apathetic, cynical, pessimistic, or detached from clients or the job.
Decreased job satisfaction: Feeling dissatisfied with the job or questioning its value.
Increased absenteeism: Taking more time off than usual or calling in sick more frequently.
Insomnia: Difficulty sleeping or experiencing restless sleep.
Reduced personal well-being: Neglecting personal needs such as exercise, healthy eating, or hobbies.
Emotional detachment: Feeling emotionally numb or detached from clients or colleagues.
Impact of Burnout
Burnout can have a range of physical, mental, and emotional effects on individuals, ultimately impacting their relationships, work performance, and overall quality of life.
Some of the effects of burnout include:
Physical Effects: Burnout can cause physical symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, and a weakened immune system, making individuals more susceptible to illness.
Mental Effects: Burnout can lead to mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and irritability. It can also cause difficulty concentrating, memory loss, and a lack of motivation or creativity.
Emotional Effects: Burnout can cause emotional exhaustion, feelings of emptiness or detachment, and a loss of enjoyment or pleasure in once enjoyable things.
The combined effects of physical, mental, and emotional burnout can result in reduced work performance, strained relationships with clients, colleagues, and loved ones, and an overall decline in the quality of life. Burnout can lead to disillusionment with the fitness industry and sometimes cause individuals to leave the profession altogether.
Coping Strategies for Burnout
There are several strategies that fitness professionals can use to address burnout, including:
Practice Self-Care: Engaging in activities that promote self-care, such as exercise, meditation, getting enough sleep, and taking time off to relax and recharge. These activities can help to alleviate stress and improve overall well-being.
Set Boundaries: Set clear boundaries with clients, such as scheduling regular breaks, limiting the number of clients, and avoiding working outside of regular business hours. These boundaries can help to reduce stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Seek Support: Seeking support from colleagues, mentors, or a mental health professional can help individuals to identify the sources of burnout and develop a game plan to manage it. Support can also provide a sense of validation and help to reduce feelings of isolation.
Reevaluate Goals: Reevaluating professional goals and priorities can help individuals to regain a sense of purpose and direction. This may involve setting new goals, revisiting existing ones, or exploring new areas of interest within the field.
Practice Mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing, can help to reduce stress and promote relaxation.
Create a Supportive Work Environment: Employers can help to address burnout by creating a supportive work environment that encourages open communication, provides opportunities for professional development, and recognizes the achievements of employees.
If you're feeling burnt out, take action before it's too late. Addressing burnout is essential for maintaining the well-being and effectiveness of fitness professionals. By implementing these strategies and seeking help and support, fitness professionals can reduce stress, improve overall well-being, and thrive in their careers. Start implementing some of the coping strategies we've discussed in this post and prioritize your well-being. Remember, burnout can affect anyone, and taking care of yourself is essential to continue providing the best service to your clients. Share your experience with burnout and any additional tips in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share it with others who may benefit from it.