Fatigue is a relatively common term that is used to describe when you are tired. However, there is a lot more to fatigue than meets the eye. Fatigue comes in several forms and in some cases can be overpowered and pushed through to achieve goals beyond what were originally thought possible.
First, we must explore the different types of fatigue and how they manifest. The important thing is to be able to understand your body and your triggers. Some types of fatigue can be a sign of medical or mental distress, while other fatigue can be avoided or overcome. The following factors can contribute to fatigue, either alone or in combination:
Psychological and psychosocial - stress, anxiety, depression
Physical - anemia, diabetes, glandular fever and cancer
Physiological - pregnancy, breast-feeding, inadequate sleep, and excessive exercise.
While most fatigue we face will be a combination of physiological or psychological fatigue it is critical to recognize unusual or prolonged fatigue that you can not explain. At that point it is best to consult your doctor.
Mental fatigue puts undo stress on our bodies and you may find tasks that would otherwise be easy or attainable seem impossible. Making sure you get enough sleep, feeding your body the proper fuel and getting your body moving is the first step to breaking your mental fatigue funk. There are times that life gets in the way and outside factors are going to be weighing on your mind. This effects your workout and ability to be effective.
According to Samuele Marcora, Ph.D., the director of research at the School of Sport & Exercise Sciences at the University of Kent in England. "Performance is not directly limited by muscle fatigue but rather by perception of effort," he says. "We create our own limits in large part because of what our brain thinks we're feeling rather than what may actually be going on deep in the trenches of our muscles."
Marcora conducted a study in which cyclists were given either a cognitive or mindless task prior to a ride. Those who were not mentally drained out performed those who had reached a state of mental fatigue. Further studies showed that positive outlooks, encouragement and reinforcement can combat that fatigue and give our brains the chance to refocus on the task at hand and push through.
We have all had those moments in the box when we are ready to throw in the towel and give up. If you haven’t, you may not be pushing yourself hard enough. Many times when we begin to tire, one of the coaches will encourage or push us to continue. It is in these moments we find that little bit left in the tank and that extra motivation to keep going, but how far does this go?
In previous blogs we talked about how muscle is formed by creating small muscle tears. Our bodies are not a fan of pain and in many cases will trigger you to stop before you are at the point of injury. This is a GREAT thing, but it is also why we may find ourselves plateauing or getting in a cycle or routine that we just can’t rise above, but what if we can retrain our brain.
With every step or rep, your muscles are sending signals to the brain, telling it what they need in order to keep going-namely, oxygen and other fuel-and reporting their level of fatigue. The brain then responds, adjusting muscle contraction demands accordingly, says Markus Amann, Ph.D., a professor of internal medicine at the University of Utah. "If we can train our brain to respond to muscle signals in a certain way, we can actually push harder and for longer," Amann says.
This can be seen by a Navy Seal that pushed himself beyond most of our comprehension. A short video gives insight into the story of a man who takes this mental battle to the extreme and the results are incredible…
Now Goggins is an extreme example of what our bodies are capable of if we can push past our mental blocks, but in more day to day and realistic terms we can still push ourselves to better our results.
- Don’t count reps, try going to exhaustion. Sometimes when we have a number to hit we stop there instead of pushing out those last few reps. If you just can not do without a set number, pick something that you know you can’t reach. Your drive to reach the goal will push yourself harder and go further than you otherwise might have.
- Don’t count the pounds. Coach Dave talks about a trainer that covered the barbells so the athletes didn’t know how much they were lifting. The students reached PRs they didn’t think possible, all because they couldn’t think themselves out of the ability to perform the task beforehand by knowing how much they were lifting. (Please do not attempt this without a professional as you have the potential for injury if you attempt something you are not physically able to do and strain hard enough). The next time you are going for a one rep or three rep max, don’t count the weight until you are completely done. Not knowing what the total is may allow you to get that PR without even realizing it.
- Don’t be afraid to fail. Many people stay within their comfort zone in lifting, afraid that if they can’t do the movement or drop the weights people will look or judge them. This is the wrong mindset. Your goal especially when going for your max reps should be to go until failure. The person that pushes past the set that is very hard but they complete and does another rep or two until they reach failure will always surpass the individual who decides they are happy with what they accomplished and too afraid of trying more.
To summarize our mind plays a huge role in our workouts. Make sure you are taking care of that as much as you are your sore muscles. Fuel yourself properly, set yourself up to succeed and push to failure and beyond.
See you in the box!