Apr 162012

Just like someone called Kris Holm (apparently), I am often One Tired Guy.

G-Image search for "tired guy" included this. Completely irrelevant; too awesome to ignore. Go buy his unicycle DVD now, I guess?

However, my status is simply due to normal life fatigue, not awesome unicycle tricks.

(Also, wow, his DVD is only 23 minutes yet it costs $59.95?! That’s like $3/minute of UNICYCLE FOOTAGE. If he even sold one copy, my hat is off to that man.)

A workmate of mine recently told me that his friend would like me to do an article relating to exercising when fatigued. Or possibly exercising when you don’t have the drive to do so. Or possibly “what is it that makes you less capable of a certain amount of reps/set when you are tired?”

Basically, I was a bit confused by the way my workmate phrased it, so if you read this, Requester… “I hope this covers it; blame Andrew if it doesn’t. Also, let me know what you want and I’ll try to do it next time.”

All fatigue is not equal = all resolutions are not equal = all effects are not equal.

By the above, what I mean is that you can become fatigued in many ways. I think we can all agree on that.

That would mean that because you can get fatigued in different ways, the most appropriate way to resolve that fatigue could be different.

That would in turn mean that the different types of fatigue could affect your capabilities in different ways.

What I’ll talk about here is simply when you walk into the gym and it feels like your strength just isn’t there. You’re tired, your will is lacking, but it is your scheduled time to work out, so you want to do SOMETHING. What do you do when your pet lifts just don’t feel so hot or the weights don’t move like they usually do?

First off: is it worth doing it at all?

If you’re familiar with me, you can probably guess that the ‘answer’ here is a big fat: “depends”. Let me explain.

We have a saying around these parts: “State before skills”.

I like to think that this can be taken in 2 primary ways:

  • You should probably address your state (emotions) before you address your skills (movement).
  • Your state should probably take precedence over your skills.

So you COULD take this as saying “How’s my state? Well, I feel ‘like crap’ so I could address this by ‘sitting on my arse on the couch’ instead of exercising, allowing my state to take precedence. Case closed.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. That’s ONE way of addressing it… which might not even work. Believe it or not, sitting on your arse is a skill as well, so you’re just choosing to get better at that! (Seriously.)

In a nutshell, it’s worth it IF you can make it BETTER than NOT doing it. This may not always be possible, but lets see what we can do…

Addressing the problem

This blog is all about “better”, so lets try and see if we can brainstorm a “better” way.

PROBABLY don't need to go this far to address your state...

What else affects your state? Music? Food? Smells? Nostalgia? Conversation?

Probably all of those things, right? Some of them MIGHT make exercise feel like a better option…

So why not try…

  • Listening to music that gets you “pumped up” or just makes you feel more lively in general?
  • Eating or drinking something that would make you feel more prepared for exercise? (e.g. a sports drink, a bit of chocolate, some beef jerky; experiment!)
  • Go into the gym room itself. Smell the air. Touch the weight plates. Squeeze the bar. Feel any more in the mood?
  • Talk to someone else who is into training. (This is a MASSIVE one for me.)

These are just examples. Everything we encounter tweaks our emotional state, so you will definitely have come across things that make you want to exercise (otherwise you probably wouldn’t be here in the first place)! Experiment; there is no other way!

I will give you an example of things that often work for me…

  • Talking about training (as mentioned).
  • Listening to “The Champ” by Ghostface Killah (Track 1 on my “Exercise – Alpha” mix CD).
  • Squeezing my Vulcan Hand Gripper or other crush grippers.
  • Eating a small amount of chocolate.
  • Drinking a Red Eye ‘Platinum’ energy drink.
  • Racking a couple of kettlebells.
“But how do I know if it’s REALLY done the trick? Is my BODY good to go or just my mind?”

Well, without testing your body’s response, it’d really be hard to judge that. I won’t go into it TOO in depth here, but I will say that it is covered very nicely in Martial Arts MasterPlan (link is to my review). In a nutshell, at an introductory level, you could run the following basic test:

  1. Bend forward slowly, tracking your hands down your leg/shin and, WITHOUT STRETCHING, see how far down your hands move easily.
  2. Attempt a few reps (4-6) of the exercise movement you plan on doing, how you plan on doing it but without loading (no weights).
  3. Repeat step 1. Note if the distance is greater or lesser. Lesser: terminate. Greater: continue.
  4. Attempt a rep with the load you would like to use.
  5. Repeat step 1. Lesser: reduce load. Greater: increase load. Repeat until you find the greatest range.
  6. Attempt a set. Happy with the results? Still moving well afterward? Not feeling like you need to go to sleep? Brilliant!

Well, that’s pretty much how I’d run it anyway (along that framework at least).

You might ask how that implies that the work is good for you (or at least “worth doing”). Fair enough, here’s my understanding of it (on one level): The nervous system is the fastest responding/adapting system in the human body. It is also the system that primarily controls the muscles ability to contract and cease contracting (i.e. relax), both in conscious and unconscious action (reflexes being one example of unconscious action).

If your nervous system is responding positively to exercise, by displaying improved performance over muscle function (a.k.a. “test well”), I think it is a fair wager that the exercise is constructive. Conversely, I would usually recommend you avoid exercises that display a negative reaction (a.k.a. “test badly”).

“But how do I know in the LONG run?”

Simple? Are you doing more quality work? More volume? More density? More intensity? I hope you’re keeping track (mostly)!

Is your attitude toward exercise improving? Does exercising feel more like something you are driven to do, rather than a chore to be attended to?
If so, then I’d say it’s working. What else (relevant) really matters?

A quick mention…

The other aspect I’ll try to talk about soon is what to do if you CAN’T make anything “test well” (or things you could try).

That reminds me to revisit my (semi-aborted) Rest Per Minute series with some new things/ideas I have come across!
Hope I keep some posts coming!