The importance of time limits for your workouts, plus other hacks to fight training burnout

I’ve been suffering from a bit of burnout.

I’ve recently taken up ice skating, as with most things in my life, I have NOT been doing it half way.

Y’all know my love of Groupon, and I definitely took full advantage of ***dealz***, finagling group class and private lessons at two ice rinks, fitting in practice before and after, and finding a third rink to practice in on “non” lesson days.

Predictably: I got really fucking burned out with skating.

If you own a pole, you’ll understand the phenomenon. When you go to a pole class, you love every minute, push yourself through the tough spots, and live your life in the final freestyle. But at home… your pole is furniture. You don’t know what to do. You feel guilty and uninspired. Why is this?

For skating, I’ve found that the final 30 minutes of ice time after my saturday private lessons (RIP for the season) way more high quality than the 3+ hour opportunities I have to skate for free after my sunday group classes. (More on that in a minute).

I noticed a similar trend with stretching. For a while, I was stretching for 10-15 minutes every morning on my own, without fail. (Why? I figured whatever I had time for was better than nothing. And it was! I made way bigger gains in a few weeks of daily, short burst stretching than taking 2x a week 1.5 hour flexibility classes).

Then some traveling got me off my game, and I tried the StretchIt middle split challenge to jumpstart things (more on that, which I’m three weeks into, next week). But the workouts going from 15 minutes to 30 and 45, and then missing some classes, and me consequently telling myself I’d have to do 75 or 90 minutes of classes in a day… just… killed my motivation.

I felt guilty, bored, overwhelmed, defiant… very similar to how I felt when I pitched a total fit at the ice skating rink a few weeks ago. The ice was rough, the rink was full of hockey assholes (a term bae and I use to describe the little jerks from ages 4-54 who purposefully weave in front of you at terrifying speeds), and, exhausted from a tough ballet class hours earlier, I caught an edge and fell on my first lap around. Feeling tired, unsure of what to do, and overwhelmed by how much I HAD to do to fill 2.5 hours of ice time we’d just paid for, I just felt… angry? Frustrated? Rebellious? Burdened? And also whatever the opposite of “having fun” is. Bae finished the session while I listened to music and pouted in the corner. (I did actually make some progress in my backwards glide in the last 20 mins of the hour though! Which only further supports my conclusion that chilling on having expectations and making room for PLAY is key).

So what do you do when you’re over it? When you’re feeling like you’re not progressing? When burnout creeps in?

Here are a few things that have helped me, both on the ice and on the pole.

1. Timebox your sessions

Ice cleaning is SUCH a blessing. It’s a time limit! When I skate after my class on Sundays (and usually have a hefty homework assignment, like 100 crossovers on each side… kill me…), I always pack a banana and my water bottle for ICE CLEANING, whooop, which happens at 2:18pm on the nose. That’s my reward for hitting some of my goals before the time (ie. not saving them for the time AFTER ice cleaning, which can be up to an extra hour and half of exhausted, slogging, half-hearted “practice”).

If it’s 1:50pm and I’ve only hit 75 crossovers on my right side, I’ll do a few “easy skills” to recover (maybe 20 spin attempts), then go for the 75 crossovers on my left side.

If at 2:15 if I’ve only done 75 on each side, welp, that’s still better than getting so overwhelmed by the number “100” that I don’t attempt any. (Something that often happens when I tell myself I have until the session ends at 3:50, and then get too exhausted to bother with them).

2. Have “easy” or “fun” skills on the practice docket for when you hit a wall

This can even be as chill as practicing walking TO your pole, or working on your facial expressions. And take a video! If you don’t make any visible progress on your “big” goals this particular session, seeing work on more attainable stuff like hand movements, your balance during pirouettes, or a fun freestyle challenge can keep you feeling successful and ease up on the pressure during frustrating moments.

On the ice, “fun” or at least low-risk/low fear skills for me are spins, two-foot turns near the wall, stroking, and one foot glides.

3. Set a timer

When you feel like quitting 10 minutes into a session, tell yourself you’re 100% allowed to: in 10 minutes. Literally set a timer and do something–anything–productive, whether it’s stretching, trying some easy spins, doing a freestyle, or just drilling 10 attempts at a tough move. Knowing the clock is ticking helps me power through “I feel like giving up” moments, and you may find that when your time’s up, you’re back in the zone and want to keep going. In that case, set the timer again! (another 20 minutes, or however you want to keep it even). If you still feel like throwing in the towel, go enjoy the rest of your day! You tried, and you did something productive for TEN WHOLE MINUTES. That’s more than a lot of us did today.

PS. Get a literal timer tho. Your phone doesn’t count, and I find it can be hugely distracting to have in the room with me. I bought a set of two and now one lives in the bathroom for days I can’t afford to be in the shower more than six minutes. (No seriously). You’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!

4. Set an intention

I have a bad habit of “preparing” for skills while. During stroking (pushing off and gliding onto one foot), I tend to put down the other foot between strokes and “reset” before stroking on the opposite side. Obviously, this looks less than fluid. On days when I feel like I’m hitting a wall as far as “getting” new skills or tricks (because let’s face it, those big victory days can be few and far between), I pick a way in which I’d like to improve my skating overall. It might be staying on one foot for a longer amount of time, swinging my arms less, deepening my knee bend, or using my edges more confidently.

Thinking of the last video you took of yourself on the pole, what do you want to improve? Looking less at-sea between moves in a freestyle? Using your hands, feet, and hair more? Moving more slowly, or making your movements bigger? Pick a focus, and make sure you take a video so you can check out the results.

5. Have something to do before and/or after a pole session

You’ll get a lot more done if you’ve got a limited amount of time to do it. And I find if I’m riding the momentum of having finished another task (like coming out of a great ballet class and already being in my workout clothes), I’m more likely to keep moving into another productive activity, like knocking out a quick 15 minute stretch.

6. Mark your calendar

I’ve talked a little about doing the StretchIt challenged, and one of its strengths is having workouts literally on your calendar–as well as off days.

And just as important: the workouts vary in length. Maybe two days a week, you just spend 15 minutes stretching, or working on transitions, while other days you do 30 or 45 minutes of floor work and/or tricks. Keeping things varied will help you avoid overwhelm, look FORWARD to sessions (thanks to the variety), and make progress in multiple areas over time. BOOM.

Here’s what my training schedule looks like in StretchIt. Kinda cool how it tracks the work you’ve put in too.

7. Approach “training” in different ways

Again, never underestimate the power of variety. I want to get better at pole, but I’m still dealing with an injury and physically CAN’T be on a pole very much, at all right now. But I feel like the stretching, ballet classes, PT routine, and ice skating are all improving my pole skills and expressiveness overall, so much so that I feel positive I’m going to come back a stronger dancer than ever. Expand your idea of what “being productive” in your training actually means, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Salsa and belly dance have given my pole work so much flavor, while skating and ballet have improved my posture, carriage, poise, and balance. Flexibility… lol duh, it’s been huge.

Maybe training for you can include watching pole videos for a half hour once a week, for inspiration. Or filling out a dance journal for yourself. Or trying new, totally different ways of moving, and challenging yourself to incorporate them into pole.

I know for me, having so much variety of activities and environments in my training schedule keeps it feels fairly effortless to maintain everything.

Salsa classes=dancing with bae (!!!), who’s crazy cute while taking the lead, and listening to fun music while totally forgetting everything I’ve learned in ballet. It also helps that my favorite belly dance teacher, Maki (!!!!), teaches this class and is a general blast to be around. We have so much fun doing this, and I feel like it reminds me to love movement, get loose, and shake my hips out.

Ballet=total focus, and everything else bouncing around in my brain quieting down. Executing small movements with precision and finding that delicious burn is an experience I’ve started literally craving. It’s also exciting to finally have disastrous moves come together after weeks of embarrassing myself in across-the-floor combinations. Saute de chats, I’m coming for ya!

Ice skating=feeling like I’m flying! But it also helps with finding my center, developing confidence and balance, and experiencing the weightless thrill of nailing a scary element. It’s also an activity I do with bae, so it’s fun. And again, I enjoy the structure of “class” with homework. I’m a structure person!

Flexibility training=quiet time alone in my studio at home. I like to light candles and play some soft music while I’m training, to set a chill, meditative vibe. Unlike ballet, appearance doesn’t matter–it’s finding the ***feeeeelings****, and that can be rewarding in its own way. Then, seeing my battements get higher in ballet feels fabulous. It’s all connected!

How do you battle burnout? Are you happy with the amount of variety in your routine? And if you have any geeky, Type-A ways of tracking progress, PLEASE SHARE, I’m in the market.





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