Prevent 4 major causes of burnout and overtraining for happier walking

If you feel sore, tired, or less motivated to go walk, you could be suffering from overtraining or burnout – and you’re not alone! There is actually such a thing as walking too much. This could mean that you’re feeling tired or sore after a tough walking workout. Burnout can be mental as well as physical. You may feel that you’re losing motivation to walk, or you might be focusing too much on numbers and not having fun. It’s natural for this to happen from time to time, but you can get through it and keep hitting your personal step goal!

You could be suffering from overtraining or burnout, but you can get your motivation back and hit your 10,000 steps! If you’ve found yourself staring at your favorite pair of walking shoes and thinking that walking has, become a chore, it’s probably time for a change! You’ll enjoy walking much more by changing up your routine, paying special attention to aches and pains, and focusing on fun instead of numbers.

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What Does Burnout Look and Feel Like?

There’s no one single answer – burnout can feel different for everyone. You may be bored with your walk, or you feel sore after you get your steps in. It could be missing your step goal is becoming frustrating, or you might just simply feel unhappy when you’re going on your walks. These are all common burnout signs that affect everyone, and there’s a way to work through it without losing all the progress you’ve made.

Cause #1: Boredom, Loneliness or Unhappiness

Happy women walking together in park
Riccardo Piccinini / Shutterstock

While you may have heard that you need to push through plateaus, confronting why you are feeling unhappy with your walking routine may do far more good than forcing yourself to do something you have grown to hate.

  • Are you bored with your walk?
  • Are you the only one in your household that walks?
  • Are you sick of seeing that same shrub again and again and again?


Male jogger or walker taking a break
Maridav / Shutterstock

If you’re feeling bored on your walks, it may be time to listen to music or a podcast as you walk. This gives you something to do while you’re walking. Some people like to learn a new skill or new trivia facts, while others simply like to be entertained or listen to fiction. You may find that your podcast is so enjoyable that you forget you’re even exercising!

For safety purposes, only use one earbud so you can still hear what is going on around you. Make sure you’re aware of your surroundings – especially if you walk in the morning or at night. You may want to pick something to listen to that is slightly less engrossing you can maintain situational awareness.

Feeling Lonely While Walking

Women walking together after a workout
Solis Images / Shutterstock

Finding a walking buddy can alleviate the feeling of loneliness if you don’t have anyone in your household to walk with. If you walk in a place where other people go – like a walking track, mall or park – try striking up a conversation with someone. If they just keep walking, it’s not a big deal! But you may find someone else who wants to chat as they walk and you make a new friend who will encourage you to keep going.

You can also try walking with colleagues at lunchtime, or before or after work. If you know someone who is trying to get healthier or more active, they’ll be likely to want to walk as much as you do.

If you’re feeling adventurous, consider offering to walk a friend or neighbor’s dog. You’ll have fun with a canine friend and also have more to do during your walk.

Feeling Tired of the Same Walking Route

Woman walking on a beautiful green nature trail
Dudarev Mikhail / Shutterstock

If you’re tired of seeing the same old scenery, find a new place to walk. You can check out Pacer’s new Routes feature, or do a quick Google search for places to walk near you. Change up your route each time you walk. A hilly road will make you work harder. Finding a walking track can take some impact off of your joints. There’s really no limit to the places you can walk other than your creativity.

If you always walk outside, try finding a picturesque indoor location like a famous public library or art museum. If you’re used to walking in the city, see if you can find a local urban park or walking trail that’s not too far away. Wherever you live, there’s bound to be a coffee shop, boutique or local landmark that you haven’t given much thought to. Use your walks to explore new places and you’ll never get bored of where you’re going.

Cause #2: Soreness or Injury

Tired male walker taking a break
novak.elcic / Shutterstock

If you’re feeling burned out from your walking routine, try getting in touch with your body. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you feeling more fatigued than usual after your workout?
  • Do you feel pain in your legs, knees, ankles, or feet after a walk that isn’t normal?
  • Has your pace decreased from where you were a month ago?
  • Does a walk that used to feel refreshing leave you feeling out of breath?
  • Is your heart rate too high for this level of activity?
  • Do you feel really sore after a workout that takes you days to get over?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you could be suffering from an undiagnosed injury. Talk to your doctor to find out if there’s anything wrong based on your specific symptoms.

Sometimes an injury or weakness in one area can lead to pain and soreness in other areas. For instance, blisters on your feet might cause you to walk with bad posture, which could lead to hip or back problems after long walks. Getting checked out is the best way to ensure nothing is seriously wrong with you.

Cause #3: Overtraining or Under-resting

Tired jogger resting in the park
AstroStar / Shutterstock

Overtraining occurs when your exercise level exceeds your body’s ability to recover. Most people think only athletes can be overtrained – think of a marathon runner’s body getting broken down from too much hard training. Walkers can and do suffer from overtraining in just the same way! Your body needs rest and nutrition to recover from your walks.

There are three main reasons for overtraining – lack of nutrition, lack of rest and too much exercise.

Lack of Nutrition: Especially if you’re starting a new workout routine or exercising more intensely, proper nutrition is important. Even if you aren’t a pro athlete, you need to make sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs. This doesn’t mean to overeat or abandon a healthy eating plan, but if you’ve cut calories significantly and you’re feeling sore or tired all the time, you may have cut too many calories. This is something a doctor can discuss with you and offer recommendations to help get you back up to speed.

Lack of Rest: Rest is your body’s time to heal damage, including the wear and tear of normal walks. Sleep is crucial to recovery. Not getting enough sleep is bad for your body in many different ways, but one of them is that your muscles won’t be able to fully recover from exercise. This can lead to general soreness, tiredness, and an increased risk of serious injury. Making sure you’re getting enough sleep can help you feel more energized and ready to walk!

Athlete sleeping in shoes - rest concept
LMproduction / Shutterstock

Rest days are also crucial to a walking routine. Especially if you’re doing more intense exercise, taking one or more days every week to relax can help your body recover. If you’re feeling very sore, take a day or two off of your walking routine and see if you feel better when you come back. Here are some other ideas to feel better:

  • Get a sports massage.
  • Treat yourself to a spa day
  • Try to get to sleep a bit earlier. Your body will thank you!
  • Reduce your step goal temporarily and work your way up again
  • Take a day or two off before hitting the trails again
  • Try yoga, stretching, or a less intense activity to help recover

Walking will always be there for you, so don’t push so hard that you can’t do it anymore.

Too much exercise: Even if you’re getting plenty of rest and eating right, it’s possible that you’re just doing too much exercise for your body to properly recover. Professional athletes and movie stars have teams of nutritionists to help with meals, plus they can get extra rest and focus their life on exercise and training. Most regular people can’t do this. That means that it’s possible to walk so much that your body cannot adequately recover.

How much walking is too much depends on the individual. Some people can add in an extra hour of fitness walking daily and have no problem, while others may not be able to hit 10k without soreness. Listen to your body and try to find the best goal for you! If you’re feeling sore or very tired, take a rest for a day or two and then see if you feel better.

Cause #4 You’re Too Focused on Numbers

Man looking at phone feeling frustrated
Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock

Setting step goals is great. It keeps you motivated, lets you know where you are at versus where you want to be, and it feels great when you knock those goals out and set new ones. It can also be exhausting – especially if you have difficulty reaching your step goals. Constantly coming up short can be frustrating.

It’s very important to set the right goal for your individual needs. Set reasonable goals, and review them from time to time to ensure you’re not walking too much. It’s perfectly fine to scale back on your goals, especially if the cost of pushing onward is completely quitting. You can always increase them later if you want to!

Remember that walking is a fun, rewarding activity! Your step goal is only a motivation tool to get you out and walking. The most important thing you can do to maintain a walking routine is to make walking fun! If you’re feeling frustrated at hitting your numbers, try free walking for a week or two. Commit to taking the first step outside your door, and then walk in whatever speed and route you come up with in the moment. Don’t worry about hitting any specific goal, but walk for as long as you want and at your own pace. Focus on enjoying your walk, taking in the sights, and enjoying the mood boosts you get from walking. Once you’re in a positive place in terms of walking, you can then look to recalibrate your step goals.

There are a million legitimate reasons – both health-based and life situation based – where you might have to drop your step goal. This could be temporary or permanent. Find the goal that works for you and leaves you happy and not sore after your walk!

Final thoughts:

Burnout affects everyone, but it doesn’t have to knock you out of the race. By taking care of yourself and figuring out why you feel this way, you can work your way back up to your goals and finish strong.

Whether you’re feeling overtrained, lonely or bored, or down because you’re missing your step numbers – you can get past it! Rest up, change up your routine and focus on the fun and you’ll get back to walking the way you want in no time!

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