Avoiding And Overcoming Burnout In Bodybuilding!

You need to understand that burnout can grind your competitive career to a halt, just like an injury can.
In the quest for survival in competitive bodybuilding, here's what you need to know about this mental nightmare.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Burnout is a potential mental nightmare for any competitive bodybuilder. It can turn a competitor who was once positive, happy and focused, into a negative, depressed and withdrawn grouch. How do I know? Because I've been there. If you want to continue competing for years to come, you need to understand that burnout can grind your competitive career to a halt, just like an injury can. Let me take you on a journey to help understand this psychological phenomenon, so that you are well equipped to face burnout head on and win!

In today's bodybuilding scene, the power of the mind is being constantly recognized as a huge influential tool. Through the use of effective goal setting and visualization, bodybuilders are taking their training and physique to the next level. Many pro and experienced bodybuilders do not put their success down to their training or their genetics. Instead they attribute the strength of their mind-set as the key to achieving physique greatness. Former Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates talked in-depth about how he beats genetic superiors than him due to his mental strategies, and how the focused mindset he had adopted constantly kept him striving to be the best. Dorian once said that if Flex Wheeler had his mindset that Dorian himself would be in serious trouble. Skip La Cour, the top ranked natural bodybuilder, makes his living from his motivational bodybuilding books. In these he assists people in determining what goals they really class as important, and then sets strategic steps in order to make these dreams a reality.

Accessing the Inner Potential of Your Mind

There is no doubt about it, accessing the inner potential of your mental power is a massive component in determining how successful you will be in achieving your dreams. The reason for this and the popularity in the mainstream bookstores dealing with "Self-Help" literature is that feeling positive is a fantastic place to be. The sense of being in control of your own destiny is empowering. Through making life enhancing goals and listing how you intend to attain these, propels you on a journey, which feels rewarding every time you take a step closer to your dream. With all this inspiring information made available in bodybuilding magazines and books, the end message is that the mind is a potential power house, propelling you closer to your goals. What most bodybuilding books and magazines tend to neglect to write about is the dark side of the mind. Lack of knowledge in this domain could eventually be as detrimental to the aspiring bodybuilder, as is the lack of appreciation for effective goal setting.

Overcoming Burning Out From Bodybuilding

'Burnout,' 'negativity,' 'depression and lacking feelings of self-worth.' These are not words that are often associated with bodybuilding. However, they can become a bodybuilder's crushing reality, as I unfortunately experienced after my first outing onto the posing stage. The purpose of this article is to tell other bodybuilders my story as to what factors caused me to become burned out. I will identify the complex components that create burnout and how this mental nightmare evolves out of nowhere to potentially damage all your hard work that you have invested into your physique. I will also explain my extensive study into this mental phenomenon that I conducted on the best natural bodybuilders in the UK. I will explain my study's results and show the optimum ways discovered to avoid and overcome burning out from bodybuilding. This article would be of great help to any bodybuilder, especially those who are competitive. Remember that knowledge is the best partner needed to succeed. By truly understanding what obstacles you may face, why they happen, and the immediate course of action needed to defeat these road blocks is a major positive attribute. Having knowledge of the mind's potentially negative effects will work in conjunction with your appreciation of possessing a strong and focused mind-set. Together, they will equip you with a total package for a long and positive journey in bodybuilding.

Due to my experience and work with burnout being a large area to write about I am going to separate this article down into three different sections.

Section 1: What Led Me To Become Burned Out From Competitive Bodybuilding

Mistake Number One

When I was 19, I decided to enter my first bodybuilding competition. I started to read more about competition dieting and supplementation to help aid fat loss. The competition was to be held in August 1996, so in April I embarked on my weight loss journey. I began at a 'bulked up' 215 pounds. At this weight I looked more like a fat rugby player rather than a bodybuilder, though of course I wouldn't admit this to myself! This was mistake number one.

Mistake Number Two

I had a body fat test done and realized I had to lose 40 pounds to be in a good competitive shape. With this in mind I started following advice read from muscle magazines and books. I went from doing no aerobic work at all to doing two 30 minute aerobic sessions per day almost overnight. I was shocked to find out how unfit I was aerobically. During this time I was also doing five weight-training sessions per week. I had been weight training in this manner for the past year so this wasn't too much of a problem for me physically. However, as I was now on a 'competition diet' I had read some bad advice stating that when dieting it is best to train with light to medium weights and increase the reps. Supposedly, this would work the 'definition' into the muscles. In addition to this, I was told that during this period that I should expect a significant drop in the amount of weight you can use. Being inexperienced, I believed this statement and without a fight and allowed my training poundages to decrease. This was mistake number two.

Mistake Number Three

I was still at college during the start of my contest preparation. Being a typical teenager, I had been indulging in various types of bad eating and drinking habits. The social life at my college, like most, revolved around partying and having fun. I hadn't properly prepared myself for the sudden change in dietary habits. Before, I had been conscious to get my protein requirements every day; however, once that had been accomplished, I wouldn't mind eating pizza or burgers. I thought that all I needed to stay on a strict diet was discipline. I didn't realize that like all personality traits, discipline is a skill that needs to be worked on, and just by saying that is what you want is not enough. You have to develop it over a period of time, and it is rarely attained overnight.

I started well on my competition diet. My high level of motivation and excitement of the upcoming show kept me going. However, I had my 'blinkers on.' I thought that I could happily follow my diet plan consisting of only chicken and potatoes, and protein drinks for months with no negative effects. At the time I thought that by keeping it as simple as possible would be best. I didn't appreciate that I could have included a wider selection of foods into my diet that would satisfy my need for variety, while still maintaining a great competition diet. Eventually, these monotonous eating patterns took a mental toll. I started to dream of other foods I couldn't eat. Strangely enough, I started looking at foods that never took my liking before and almost started drooling! Even when this was happening I was too rigid to change my diet, or even include more types of food. This was mistake number three.

Mistake Number Four

Due to my strict diet regimen, I stopped going out with my friends and family as much as I did before. I didn't want to be tempted by others wanting to go for drinks or a meal. I thought I would be more in control of my diet if I stayed at home instead. This caused some problems with my girlfriend at the time (she's my wife now, so at least it worked out in the end!). Sacrificing my time with people special to me was going to be a factor in contest preparation, I knew this before I started the diet. Unfortunately, I hadn't spent some quality time with my loved ones explaining this before hand. Although I got a good level of support from my family and friends, at the time I was too self-consumed to fully appreciate it. Also, most importantly, I didn't make them a part of the experience so that they could enjoy my journey with me. This was mistake number four.

Mistake Number Five

I did not realize that before embarking on my diet how much competition dieting can cost. I was taking in a lot of supplements to assist fat loss, prevent sugar cravings and keep my immune system high. Being at college, I had a part-time job at a health shop so I got discount on my supplements. However, I still found myself spending most of my wages on the competition. With the additional cost of sun-bed tanning, buying competition oil and tanning products, I was pretty soon putting most of my money into this contest. At the time I felt that I was happy to do it. However, I was wishing that I had known about these costs before and started saving in advanced to make the money factor less of a problem. This was mistake number five.

I must stress that during the four months of competition diet these mistakes and problems were not perceived as negative in my mind. I was actually really upbeat and appeared positive on the surface. The problem was that these different factors were lying dormant inside of me. Although, I would not admit it to myself these negative aspects of my contest preparation were eating away at me.

At my first contest, I took second in my Junior Under 21 class in the ANB UK Show. I was really happy with this and felt on top form. I then set my sight on another show which was in one month's time. It was during this last month of dieting that I really started to feel the effects of burnout. I started to resent the dieting and the way that my contest preparation had a negative effect on my relationships. My heart wasn't truly into the next show, and consequently I didn't place in the top three in my class.

After the show was over, I felt a sense of relief that I could finally get my life back. The endless dieting, aerobics and weight-training started to feel more like a job than a special hobby which it started out as. I started to think about what shows I was going to compete in the following year. But something inside of me couldn't stand the thought of going through the preparation and sacrifices again. I put this down to just being tired from the competition and that in a few weeks I'd feel differently. Well, in a few weeks I did feel different. I felt even worse at the thought of future competitions! This really troubled me. Since I was 15 I had always dreamed that I would compete regularly and had longed for competitive success. Now that I had finally started competing, I couldn't believe that I was going to stop. But stopping is what I did.

During the same time I was half way through my Sports Science degree. I had to choose the subject for my upcoming dissertation. I was still trying to understand what actually was going on inside of me, mentally and physically, that led me to burning out. I decided to conduct an in-depth study into this area. I believed that if I could find the answers to my questions, it would be of great use for when I finally decided to enter a bodybuilding competition again. The title of my study was 'A Study into the Effects of Burnout in Competitive Bodybuilders.' This was the beginning of a year-long research into this relatively publicly misunderstood and complex mental area.

Go to Section Two!
The full explanation of burnout and my burnout study.