For a very long time, I didn't realize that my workouts didn't feel at all the way they should have felt. Sleep deprivation, not eating enough and constant exercise fatigue may make workouts really difficult.
The other day, I did a workout where I felt I was rally full of energy, excited to move, and the weights that I used, felt light. Well, at this point of my training, they are relatively light, but that's also where my fitness level is right now.
Many years before that, this was not how I was feeling during my workouts. I was experiencing exercise fatigue, was often tired, hungry, and exhausted from not sleeping enough. But I went and worked out anyway because I was just so disciplined. While discipline can certainly be a good thing, being too disciplined isn't helpful, if it means that you're actually ignoring your body.
How are you feeling when you work out? Do you start your workouts excited, you have fun doing them, and you're listening to you body?
To avoid chronic exercise fatigue, the next time, before you work out, ask yourself these four questions:
Do I Have Fuel In My Body?
I know, I know — not everyone needs to eat before working out. Especially now as intermittent fasting is a big thing now, people are encouraged to break their fast after they've finished their workouts.
From what I've noticed, this model may work well for many men, but tends to be less great approach for women (again not all of them, obviously). In general, women's bodies need more frequent feeding and don't like to be hungry for extended periods of time, especially if we're physically active. Fasting can absolutely contribute to developing exercise fatigue.
If you're dealing with exhaustion, adrenal fatigue and/or hypothalamic amenorrhea or other hormonal imbalance, then do yourself a favor and stay away from intermittent fasting!
I used to tell myself too that I don't need to eat before working out. Or more precisely, I told that I even can't eat before working out in the morning, because it makes me sick. Looking back, I just wanted postpone eating because I thought I would burn more fat that way.
Fasted workouts in the morning — 6-7 years of running and 2-3 years of HIIT and weights — were a huge contributor to my hypothalamic amenorrhea, that's for sure!
Now as I'm recovered, I almost never work out first thing in the morning with out any food in my stomach. There's a huge difference in the quality of my workouts when I have had at least one or even two meals during the day.
If you've been working out on an empty stomach and your workouts haven't been great, try to eat something before. You don't have to go along with the fasting trend. Just give it a try and see if eating makes a difference and if it helps to relieve some of your exercise fatigue.
Did I Sleep Well?
Sleep makes a difference in everything — in your mood, your hunger and cravings, and also your workouts.
If you had less than 7 hours of solid sleep, before you worked out, then your workout is not nearly as efficient as it could be. You also don't feel as great as you could, had you slept long enough. You may have to slow down, cut your workout shorter, or even quit half way through of what you had planned.
During the worst times of my exercise fatigue, when I was chronically under sleeping, I was so tired during my workouts. I remember that the second half of 2016, when I was still trying to train hard, I just couldn't finish my workouts anymore. I was out of breath and my body wasn't listening to me because I wasn't listening to my body! You can only push yourself so far.
There's nothing better than working out when you're actually rested. It's like a night and day. After all these years of exercise fatigue, I had forgotten how awesome it can feel.
How Is My Body Feeling?
This is another important question to ask yourself and give a totally honest answer. How is my body feeling today?
So many of us push through exhaustion because we think we have to. What if I told you that you don't have to?
When you take a rest day, nothing bad will happen — but a lot of good things can happen. Your body is building back the tissue and repairs itself not when you're working out, but when you're resting. There's really no point in doing another workout if you're sore, tight, and tired. This will make your exercise fatigue many times worse.
For example, I did a pretty heavy leg day yesterday. Most days, I'm trying to walk at least 4 miles, but by yesterday afternoon, I just knew this wasn't going to happen because the fatigue from my workout was starting to kick in.
Today, my glutes and quads are really sore. I'm also feeling more tired in general, so I know that trying to do another workout today would be a disaster for my body. I would need to take even more days off.
Notice that your body is talking to you all the time. You just need to listen.
What Do I Want to Do Today For My Workout?
We can get so caught up with what we think we have to do for today's workout, that we forget to ask what we'd really want to do.
When I was running a lot, there was even no question about what workout to do, because I thought that running is the only way to efficiently burn calories. That's what all my decisions were based on — how many calories this food has, and how many calories that workout burns.
Had I ever thought what I really want to do, I probably would have made different choices, at least once in a while. I did enjoy running, but there were definitely days where a gym workout would have felt better, or a group class, or a rest day! But I made these choices rarely.
We all have preferences. Some of us like yoga, others running, others lifting, others dancing. But it's not hard to get physically and mentally tired from it. We're afraid of what might happen if we mix things up, even if it's just once a month!
The only thing that may happen is that you make your workouts more versatile and fun mentally, and challenge your body in different ways physically. There's nothing wrong with following a workout program, but we should trust our bodies enough when they just don't feel like doing the thing we were planning. There are plenty of other things to do.
After a workout, it's natural to feel tired. But in general, it shouldn't turn into an exercise exhaustion that doesn't go away in several days. If this happens, and we push our bodies despite being tired, it accumulates. We become chronically exhausted for weeks, months and years.
Trying to cut calories will only make things worse, because without proper nutrition, we absolutely slow our recovery down even more.
A lot of times, we're so scared of weight gain that we push ourselves to work out anyway. I can now confidently say that it's not worth it. I've been through a crazy burnout and recovered from it, and I promise that your workouts don't have to suck!
Do you start most of your workouts feeling fresh, energized and excited to work out?
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