The following is such an important topic that I am breaking it up for you in digestible bites. Welcome back to a mini series created from the article published in Juggernaut Training Systems. Click here to see last week's intro installment.
Third on our list of powerful fatigue fighters, engaging in relaxing activities can be of great help. An old but quite profound discovery about the mechanisms of cumulative fatigue is that it is multifactorial. Fatigue can be accumulated from ANY kind of stressor – not just training. This means that fatigue can be added from the usual physiological stresses of gym training, but also from the caloric expenditure of daily activities, and even from psychological stressors. In the end, all of these sources of fatigue sum up to the total cumulative fatigue at any one time, and their negative effects on training are still expressed to some extent regardless of their source. Thus, being under constant psychological stress can overwhelm fatigue management, even if plenty of sleep, food, and other fatigue fighters are present. Yes, it’s possible that a stressful week of closing business deals at work can in fact impair productive training, even a week after those deals have closed and all is well.
In order to deal with the fatigue of sleep deprivation, we get more sleep. In order to deal with hypocaloric-generated fatigue, we eat more food. And in order to deal with training-induced fatigue, we take periods of easier training. In just the same way, fun and relaxing activities are a direct way to fight the fatigue that accumulates via psychological stressors. Going to the movies with your friends, taking a relaxing stroll through the park, or even watching multiple episodes of Clone Wars on Netflix as you stretch out on your secluded couch (my personal favorite) can go a long way in helping dissipate fatigue.
A word of caution; this is not a physiological license to party! The activities must be fun and RELAXING, not fun and draining (as the best parties tend to be). And, of course, we all have jobs and families and responsibilities which must be attended to, and we can’t just veg out when we’re not training. So what do we do in the real world? Well, two recommendations come to mind if you can’t actually increase your amount of leisure time but lifting results are very important to you:
a.) Choose to spend your leisure time wisely.
Instead of partying and drinking on your weekends, choose to spend time hanging out with friends while eating – or dare I say – using less harsh recreational drugs (marijuana comes to mind). Now, I don’t smoke and I hardly ever drink, but if you’re dead set on one or the other –drinking is the clear loser.
b.) Choose to react well to stressors
The act of stressing out, with the hormonal alterations, the anger and frustration, and the high heart rates is a relic of our “fight or flight” evolutionary past. Since you can’t beat up the copier and running away from work usually means they decide to stop paying you, neither reaction will get you far. Instead, try to cultivate an attitude of calm about your work and other stressors. Be calm, breathe, relax, do what you have to in order to do a good job, and leave the sweating and stewing to people that don’t train. You’re an athlete, and you’ve gotta recover, so conventional stressing is not for you!
What is your favorite leisure activity? Tune in next week to follow up with our last underestimated fatigue reducer: Compassionate Touching. Got questions? Talk to your coach about your recovery routine.