Did I ever tell you about the time I took three months off the gym because I felt burned out and bored?

How To Beat Gym Burnout & Find Fitness Motivation

Written by Russ Howe PTI, and most recently updated 1 day ago.

7 min read

Do you just get sick of the gym?

I can relate.

Back in 2016 I found myself in a position where I was working 16-hour days as a personal trainer, building this huge website between clients, and juggling family life, and it all got too much for me.

There would be days where I’d get to my own workout and just feel tired, uninspired, and I just wanted to skip it.

A friend suggested that I might be suffering from burnout, because I was on the go 24/7 and my entire life revolved around being in the gym.

She was dead right!

Regular readers of my website will know that I often speak about the importance of having balance. Usually I mean this in terms of having a balanced diet, and a balanced approach to the using various training styles in the gym, but in this situation I mean it in terms of not letting the gym take over your whole life.

In an attempt to resolve the issue, I cancelled my gym membership and swore I would not return until I actually wanted to.

This was a scary time for me. Heck, I’ve been a member of a gym since I was nine years old. However, it turned out to be a great decision, because being away from the gym made me realize just how much I had become obsessed and dependent on lifting weights, and showed me the important stuff which I had been missing out on at home for the sake of training one more client, or hitting one more workout.

The whole process lasted three months.

And here’s the weirdest part…

When I eventually returned to my gym, several other gym members told me they were going through similar emotions to those which I had been going through. They always felt stressed about their diet, or about how many days per week they could train around their job, or if their current training program was going to work, and they were basically feeling burnt out.

If you are currently experiencing something like this, then my advice is to do what I did.

Yes, it’s scary as fuck at first, and yes, it goes against all the stock advice you’ll get in fitness magazines (“You just gotta want it more, bruh!”), but it’s 100% the best way to prioritize your mental health and rekindle your love for training.

If someone had told me at the start of 2016 that I would take three months off the gym in that year, I definitely wouldn’t have believed it. The gym had become such a big part of my day-to-day life, even just the idea of a rest day was hard for me. Taking the time off gave me a whole new perspective, and I returned to the gym with an enthusiasm for training which had been missing for years (plus a much better work/gym/life balance to make sure it didn’t happen again).

Anyway, if you’re interested in what I did during these wilderness months, here are the odd hobbies which I picked up (and I still do them to this day).

Get The Fuck Out

Is walking good exercise

Not just an awesome Skid Row song, but also amazing exercise.

Training no longer felt fun for me because I had over-complicated the fuck out of it. I was constantly thinking of how to improve exercises, or grip positioning, or fit clients’ programs together. The best thing I ever did was taking it right back to basics – downloading Pokemon GO, and going to long walks with my kids.

It was so simple, it was lots of fun, and the kids still talk about our quests catching of those annoying like Pokemon fuckers.

Is Pokemon GO good for weight loss

Moves Like Jagger

is dancing good exercise

My girlfriend loves dancing.

For an introvert like me, that’s fucking terrifying.

Not only have I got the mobility of a brick, but years of hoisting heavy weights have probably ruined my chances of winning any dance competitions.

So in an attempt to get myself out of a rut I enrolled in a dance class to see if I could the lady in my life.

Let’s be clear on this:

I could not. I fucking suck at dancing. I look like a rhino trying to itch their lower back. It was a lot of fun, though, and it you need to macho-it-up just remember that dancing is an activity which offers several cross-over benefits which can help you become a better athlete. Jean-Claude Van Damme himself was an expert in the ballet before transitioning into martial arts and action movies, and a 10-year old future world champion boxer Vasyl Lomachenko was encouraged to partake in folk dancing classes to improve his footwork.

“You want to be a great boxer? Then you must learn to dance!”, recalled Lomachenko when he told ESPN about his childhood.

So there.

Support A Small Sports Team

how to beat gym burnout

I’m a lifelong Newcastle United fan, and I’ve passed this curse hobby on to my eldest son, Junior.

Newcastle are successful nowadays, but that wasn’t always the case.

Back in 2016 when Junior’s interest first started piquing, NUFC were owned by a guy called Mike Ashley. This is a man who spent all of his time sucking money out of the club and stapling his tongue to his forehead.

Fuck me, it was depressing.

My son decided that we should also start following a small football team, and that team turned out to be South Shields FC, who were playing in the ninth tier of English football (the Northern Football League Division One). I was surprised by how much fun this turned out to be. Having something which was just for us, with zero expectations, and with no stress, went a long way to reminding my why I used to love football so much.

We still follow this team today, and this simple hobby helped me to build what will likely be a lifelong thing with my son.

Now, we chose this particular team because we live in this town, and figured it would be fun to go to non-league football, but if you’d like to follow suit then there are no rules here. Websites like Football Scores constantly updates its list of live scores, league tables, and fixture information, so you can be as obscure as you like with your team selection and still support your chosen side all around the world (although if you as me, I think you should totally jump on the South Shields joyride!).

South Shields Football Club

Read All About It

how to beat gym burnout

I spent most of my childhood in hospital with a broken hip, so reading has always been a hobby of mine.

My Grandad would bring me books on training and nutrition because he was trying to educate me on the things I needed to do to get out of that damn wheelchair, and it ultimately led me to the career I have now. It’s a hobby which has stood me in good stead over the years, too, because all that reading has made me pretty good at breaking down fitness bullshit into ways that “normal people” can understand, and the endless hours I’ve spent reading stuff like the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research has made me good at my job.

However, I’ve never read any normal fucking books!

I started with Slash’s autobiography, and I found it very interesting to learn about somebody else’s life. I’ve read many more since then, but I’ll always remember that one because it put me on the path.

Returning To The Gym

how to beat gym burn out

When I went back to the gym I felt fresh, and full of new perspective.

I was determined not to let the gym take over my life again, so I set strict boundaries to ensure I would have enough time to be at home with my family and to rest. I reduced my PT workload by half (and increased my prices), and reduced my workout schedule to a full-body program which had me training three-to-four days per week.

Here’s the program.

Another major change was in my my nutrition plan. I no longer tried to smash all of my nutritional targets, instead I just focused on the important stuff (read this post) which would give me the biggest bang for my buck, without feeling like a chore.

Website members are killing these russhowepti.com training programs, and you can start today!

Full-Body Blitz

Chisel your leanest body to date with this 6-week full-body workout program which is suitable for both beginner and advanced trainees.

RPE 20

Use the Rest Pause technique to add slabs of lean muscle to your fame over the next 10-weeks.

Classic Size

This is an old school 12-week program which uses dropsets, rest pause sets, and classic linear periodization to help you pack on serious muscle mass.

Become War

Carve your action hero body with my modernized version of Sly’s insane Rambo II training regimen!

Get More From Russ!


I’m Russ. I’ve been a personal trainer since 2002, and I own russhowepti.com.

My job is to simplify fitness for my readers.

I send out free fitness tips to over 100,000 men and women every week, all in the same no-nonsense style as the article you’ve just read, so if you enjoyed reading it be sure to jump on my email list below.

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