The Inevitable Burnout
“Don’t you ever get tired of all this stuff?”
That’s exactly what one SteroidsLive subscriber asked me a few months ago. He had been training for three years and was getting burned out from all the strict dieting and training. My response was “yes, of course.”
The truth is, after 12 years of pumping iron, I do get tired of “all this” once in a while. I mean how many chicken breasts can a person really eat in one lifetime? The trick is learning how to strike a realistic balance between bodybuilding and the rest of your life, and knowing how to get through the periods of burnout.
First of all, I don’t know any bodybuilder in the world who stays on a 100% clean diet all year long. It’s much easier if you eat clean enough to stay within “striking distance” of your goal. For example, when I am not preparing for a contest, I will let my body fat to climb to around 14%. Not only does this keep me sane by allowing me to eat the foods I enjoy, but it allows me to train heavier and harder so I can build more muscle. As my waist approaches 33″, I know it’s time to clean up the diet. By setting limits for my waist size and body fat levels, I stay within striking distance of being in “good” shape.
During the offseason, I always make sure to get the nutrients my body needs to grow. I do this by consuming 5-6 small meals each day. Three of the meals are “clean” meals, made up of protein shakes (Metrx or Myoplex), and the other two to three meals are not so clean. These meals might consist of a large plate of lasagna, a cheese steak sub, or a large pizza. When I decide to clean up my diet, I will gradually convert the “bad” meals to clean ones.
Training is also done a bit differently in the offseason. I am much more likely to take an unplanned day off here and there if I don’t have a contest in the near future. This time off can help your body get over nagging injuries and it could help you recognize an overtraining problem you didn’t even know existed. In addition, your family and friends will thank you for the extra time you have to spend with them.
If you feel burned out from the bodybuilding lifestyle, there are a few things you can do to get back in the mood, aside from slacking up on the diet and taking time off. It’s been said that the best training program is the one you’re not currently using. It’s true. Once your body gets used to doing the same exercises every week, it adapts to the stress and your gains come to a halt. Just like your body adapts, so does your mind. Here’s a few tips to get your training (and your mind) out of a rut:
- join a new gym for a month
- try new exercises, or old ones you haven’t done in a while
- try new rep schemes – if you’ve been doing 6-8 reps, try 12-15
- set new goals
- have fun with a partner
This last one, “have fun with a partner”, is something we use a lot. When you get to the gym, let your training partner select the first exercise and you pick the next one. Keep alternating until you reach the end of your workout. This way, you won’t know what to expect next and every exercise will feel “fresh” again. I remember when I first started training at Powerhouse in MD, we used to have the “Circle of Death”. Three of us would stand around at the end of an arm workout and load the curl bar up with three 10-lb. plates per side. The first person would do 10 reps and pass it to the next person who would do the same thing. As the bar reached the first person, he would then do 9 reps. The bar was passed around the circle for 8 reps, then 7, and so on until we got down to a single rep. By the end, there was always one person lying on the floor!
Bodybuilding is a lifestyle. Just like anything else that is a big part of your life, it can become boring at times and cause you to ask yourself, “why am I putting myself through all of this?” You’re not alone. Everyone from the weekend warrior to Mr. Olympia experiences these feelings. But if you love bodybuilding as much as I do, you will find ways to get through the ruts. As you look back over the years and see the positive changes that came as a result of your dedication and hard work, you will know exactly why you “did this”.