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  • Burnout / Loss of motivation

    Hey guys,

    Lately I've been dealing with a lot of burnout and loss of motivation in everything (not just lifting), and just wondering what you would advise.

    First of all, I'm a 33/m PGY2 Medical Physics Resident in radiation oncology which is extremely brutal and demanding (but I'm know all residencies are). I work 6 days/week (Sunday-Friday), typically 10-14 hours/day, but sometimes get lucky with a 6ish hour work day when things are light. I got back into powerlifting October 1st; went through 4 weeks NLP, the bridge, and am now on week 6 of the 3-day Hypertrophy template. I've been making it a priority to get every single workout in, and in this timeframe have only missed 2 lifting sessions and maybe 3 GPP days due being sick or out of town. I've seen a lot of progress, but the past month or so (maybe longer?) it's really been taking a toll on me mentally and physically. I am pretty much to the point where I need to literally drag my ass to work, force myself to concentrate and be productive (and still not get enough done), and get myself to the gym when I really just want to lay around.

    My life is pretty much work, gym, sleep (oh, and I also have a fiance I sometimes get to see for an hour here or there haha)! My mind is constantly in a foggy state, motivation is lowering weekly, I'm constantly feeling burnt out with low energy, lifts have seemed to be stalling, etc...

    I'm thinking I'm just overworked and under-recovered, and it's something I'll just have to deal with and keep on keeping on; but I don't want to set myself up for failure. I'm trying not to catastrophize, but I'm also being realistic.

    Are these symptoms what you'd typically expect for someone in my position? Would you recommend an easy/light 1-2 weeks after this program? I was planning on doing the 12-week strength program next, but maybe there's a better one for me?

  • #2
    Yes, it certainly sounds like you need a temporary back-off in terms of workload, and perhaps a modification to your future training approach in terms of intensity or volume. I'd also ensure you aren't regularly over-shooting RPE targets in training, and that you aren't chronically/severely sleep restricted (as I know can happen in residency).
    IG / YT

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    • #3
      I’ve had this feeling maybe 3 or 4 times over the last year and half that I’ve been Lifting weights. To be honest, I’m on the upswing of one of those times right now.

      This may not be a popular answer, or the right one, but I’ll write it anyways: I’ve taken a week off here and there. I’ve always come out of that week ready to go again. I have a job that is often highly stressful, also two young children and wife. These things add stress to my life, and are more important than lifting weights.

      As much as training is important, if it’s making (or contributing to) your life being shitty, I see no issue with taking a mini sabbatical.





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      • #4
        Certainly sounds hella stressful, hang in there. I think the most important thing to your long term success in the gym is going to be compliance, and if you're struggling to get yourself to the gym every day, it doesn't sound very sustainable. I'd try out a temporary reduction in work load, or take 1-2 weeks to do some 'pivot' work (bro out, do exercises you'd normally not do, have fun, keep the sessions shorter, etc), and see how you feel / reevaluate goals.

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        • #5
          I could only imagine how hard it is, im still in undergrad and I struggle sometimes but the only advice I could offer to you is to have a positive mindset and keep going.
          Much respect for doing oncology, I know its probably draining mentally and emotionally.

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          • #6
            Yep I've been there, actually just recently matter of fact. I second llaffin in saying that a couple week pivot block can do wonders for restoring your mental and physical health.

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            • #7
              I too have a stressful job at times that will throw off my training a bit. Over the last year or so, I've been really starting to understand how to manage it better. I would agree that taking a pivot week, or two, works really well. I'm just to the end of the 12 week strength program, but I did make some modifications. First, I only do 3 days so I cut one day (I'm not quite that advanced yet so this works for me). Second, I've done things like entirely skipping week 5 and going right to week 6 where the volume decreases. In week 4, I was feeling quite stressed and under-recovered for the whole week. After taking a light week, I felt much much better. I did however make a bit of a mistake around weeks 7 and 8 where I went almost two weeks of feeling under-recovered again. In hindsight, I learned that with 4 rep x 4 set programming it is good to be a bit conservative with my 1@8s. Consider that RPE, in general, has a range and this is probably more true the newer you are to using RPE. For example, a general guideline is that you go up 1 RPE for 5% more on the bar. If your lifting weight is 400lbs, that is a 20lb range. Err on the side of caution on days or weeks that you feel particularly bad which includes the back-off sets as well. For me, I also learned that the same isn't true when I start to do 3 rep by 3 set programming. I can push the RPE up on my singles without much ill effects during these weeks.

              The way the 12 week strength program is laid out is that all of the competition lifts are on the first two sessions so another thing I did a couple times was occasionally drop the third session of the week since this is all assistance exercises. This may be frowned upon, in general, but it did not seem to impact me too much. However, I did also pull in my next session by a day (3 days off b/w sessions). I did lose a tiny bit of skill with the lifts by doing this, but in the grand scheme it still worked just fine. All in all, I've made significant progress on this program, and I've managed to stay happier throughout it than times in the past which is the most important goal for long term success.

              I'm still learning, but these are the sorts of tweaks I've learned that work. Everybody is going to be a little different so it will take time to really figure out what works for you. Just keep in mind that any work in the 60-70% range is sufficient to maintain your skill and strength level.

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              • #8
                I feel your pain. I am a pgy-4 radiology resident with 3 children. I was putting in around 80 hours a week including 5 24-28 hours call shifts every 4 weeks which would drain me for several days. Just in time to recover and do it over again. I took the option of not working out to get through those years of constant fatigue. It has only been recently when my call load has gone down (so I can study for my board exam) that I have felt enough energy to get up and do something with my life. I don't recommend what I chose and completely cut out exercise. I think spending some time on your health is very important and brings joy. I want to second what Austin Baraki said about sleep. You often don't realize how sleep deprived you are, and that has been the biggest variable for me and my motivation. Make it a priority and other things tend to workout.

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                • #9
                  Thanks for all the advice, everyone! I'm sure my problem was a little bit of what you all have been saying: overworked & under-recovered; likely from overshooting RPE the first half of the program, lack of sleep, nutrition, and all the other stressors. The last couple weeks I decided to cut out most of the GPP, went more conservative with RPE, and on particularly weak days I dropped a couple sets or completely eliminated some assistance exercises. I've tried to get more sleep, but that's not always possible with this schedule.

                  I'm starting to feel a LOT better now! Just this last Saturday (the last day of my Hypertrophy program) I pulled 405# @ 8ish, when I had trouble with 350 just a couple weeks ago.

                  I decided to go forward with the 12-week strength (starting this week), but will definitely pay more attention to RPE and self-modulate accordingly.

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