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Exercising during a burnout, this is what happens

According to research organization TNO, as many as 1.2 million Dutch employees had burnout complaints in 2020. Anyone who has ever had a burnout knows what it feels like. You are intensely tired, and the smallest activity takes too much energy. Exercise – or exercise at all – is often the last thing on your mind. Yet it can save you. Femke Vonk exercised her way out of her burnout: 'Take it easy, then the line won't break, but you can keep going. This is how I came back to myself step by step.'

Cry, cry, cry

Anyone who has had a burnout recognizes that feeling of 'just let me lie with my head under the covers, I'm not doing anything today'. It was about ten years ago when - from one day to the next - I felt like I couldn't do anything anymore. Crying, that was about the only thing I could do. My manager and I had been in a conflict for years, and I felt like I would never get out of it. The company doctor sent me home: burnout.

Burnout is not a mental problem

At first I thought: great, now I can cycle all day long! But it didn't work that simply. With burnout there is an imbalance in your stress mechanism. It is therefore not a psychological problem, but a physical problem, as we read, for example, on the website of CSR, expertise center for stress & resilience. The stress hormones therefore continue to circulate in your blood and that causes damage, in your brain, but also in your body. If you start doing endurance sports like crazy or throwing weights like you're Arnold Schwarzenegger, it won't get any better. You only produce even more stress hormones. It makes sense that for me, cycling for half an hour felt like I had completed the Tour de France.

Rest will save you

If you have a burnout, you recover less quickly. This does not mean that you should not exercise, on the contrary, but that you should take your ability to recover into account. I replaced cycling with a leisurely walk. Twenty minutes was more than enough in the beginning. Enjoy the wind - or rain if necessary - in the park and then go home. Once home, it is important to calm your stress hormones. Just try to relax flat and very consciously in order to recover properly. So I slowly built it up to an hour of leisurely walking.

Just 35 minutes of exercise

If at some point you can walk for an hour, then it is time for the careful next step. The gym. One problem, I hate gyms. Sweaty men with a powerlifting belt, those mirrors, loud music and trainers who cheer you on. It was never my favorite place, but with such an overstimulated head and body... Give my share to Fikkie. Happy is Happy Bodies otherwise. Calm music, a friendly atmosphere and personal guidance by skilled coaches who also know how to deal with a burnout. And of course the Milon circle: a fully automatic circle with fitness equipment on which you can train your entire body in 35 minutes. You don't have to think about anything, just work on your body for half an hour. This way you slowly rebuild your recovery capacity.

Stars of the sky

It really took me a year before I recognized myself again. My recovery capacity is now back to what it was and I am cycling like crazy. The great thing is that the Milon circle 'grows' with you. As you become stronger and fitter, the Milon adapts accordingly. This is how you continue to make progress.

Knowing more?

Curious how you too get more energy by training twice for 35 minutes every ten days, under the guidance of your own personal lifestyle coach? Even if you have physical complaints? Then do the membership test and sign up for a free personal introductory meeting and tour of the club. Want to bet that you are immediately sold?


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