Beating fatigue

  • Fitness
  • Saturday, 17 Aug 2013

Training hard is not the same as overtraining. If you want to see results, you have to push a little and go past that comfort zone.

We all battle with post-workout tiredness once in a while, but when it happens every time, something is wrong.

EXERCISING regularly is supposed to give you a release of endorphins and boundless energy.

Does it really?

You enter the gym or field brimming with energy, and after giving 100% to your workout, you feel completely drained. The post-workout euphoria disappears and transitions into fatigue. You no longer feel rejuvenated. Instead, you stagger home and dial for a masseur.

Of course, as one colleague reveals, she doesn’t have to hit the gym to experience fatigue. Battling traffic jams, dealing with irate drivers and changing gears in her stick shift car are enough to cause exhaustion and send her crawling to bed.

Post-workout fatigue can hit like a bolt of lightning, and you have no idea why.

One of the culprits is lactic acid. It is a by-product (or waste product) that builds up at a higher rate in the muscles during intense workouts (such as sprinting).

According to Mayo Clinic, you are more likely to experience post-workout fatigue when you have a low lactate (anaerobic) threshold, wherein too much lactic acid is released in your skeletal muscles when they are using oxygen and metabolising glucose.

One way to reduce lactic acid build-up is to do proper warm-ups and quick stretches before the workout. Be sure to take at least 10 minutes to cool down by walking slowly or doing light, repetitive movements that will gradually bring your heart rate down after an intense workout.

Take time to stretch afterwards to ensure your muscles don’t remain in a contracted state. Stretching also helps calm the mind.

Some research also shows that lactic acid build-up and post-workout fatigue can be reduced through nutrition.

In her book, Foods & Nutrition Encyclopedia, Volume 1, Audrey H. Ensminger mentions that some trainers encourage their athletes to consume lactic acid-based foods, such as yoghurt and buttermilk, or take lactic acid salts (lactates). Proper hydration and vitamins such as vitamin D, magnesium and thiamin (B1), are also known to combat lactic acid build-up.

Training versus overtraining

Training hard is not the same as overtraining. If you want to see results, you have to push a little and go past that comfort zone. But that doesn’t mean you train to the point of exhaustion daily. It will only make you more fatigued and weaker.

Rest is what you need to become stronger. Physiological improvement in sports only occurs during the rest period following hard training.

I’ve had friends say if they don’t feel sore after a workout, they haven’t worked hard enough.

Repeatedly feeling sore after every workout is a sign that your body is struggling to keep up with the routine.

Soreness doesn’t translate to more calorie loss or more tone. In the long run, it’s going to be damaging to the central nervous system, cause injuries, and leave you with mood swings. If you want to train hard, do it smartly.

Yes, it is normal to sometimes feel nauseous or even throw up during a vigorous workout.

Some Bootcamp instructors will tell you that if you don’t throw up during the workout, you haven’t worked hard enough.

I’ve seen students drop like durians and puke all over from attempting 100 burpees, while the instructor walks around with a satisfied smirk on his face.

Unless you’re in military training, I fail to understand the logic behind this.

There are many ways to get a beautiful, fit body, so why would you want to subject yourself to torture?

When I feel nauseous, I stop immediately because throwing up makes me sick and feeble. Thankfully, my trainers understand I have stomach issues and cannot push myself past a certain limit.

Obviously, if you over-exert, are sick, lacking in nutrition, prone to anxiety, dehydrated or work out on an empty stomach, you’re bound to feel nauseous or lethargic. Drinking too much water can also trigger vomiting.

Contrary to what others might say, it’s best to eat a small snack two hours prior to exercising to keep your blood sugar levels stable. If the problem persists, seek medical advice.

Mix and match

Cross training is an excellent way to prevent workout fatigue, prevent injuries, and keep monotony away. Activities such as running, swimming and biking should be performed so that no single muscle group is stressed or overloaded.

A regular mix of high- and low-impact activities is advisable to reduce overuse injuries.

As we age, reducing the frequency and duration of aerobic training, while maintaining intensity will retain cardiovascular fitness. High-intensity, low-impact training can satisfy intensity needs of advanced students, while minimising accumulative trauma.

And don’t forget to add resistance training to strengthen your joints and surrounding muscles.

If you’re overtraining (assuming you’re not a professional athlete or dancer), you’re likely to be an overzealous individual. Without regular, intense exercise, you probably perceive yourself to be fat or out-of-shape. Sports psychologists believe this may be due to other factors that are out of control in one’s life, such as unhealthy relationships, self-image issues and self-esteem problems.

The overtraining signs to look out for, besides chronic fatigue, are sudden weight loss, elevated heart rate, a lack of desire to work out, insomnia, muscle soreness, depression, stress fractures, various injuries, amenorrhoea (absence of menstruation in females) and declining performance.

Basically, the longer you overtrain, the more rest is required. It is important to prevent overtraining because in its advance stages, reduction or cessation of training for several months may be necessary to allow for recovery.

The Consumers Union of United States recently compiled the following fatigue-fighting tips:

Eat carbohydrates

Low-carb diets are popular, but they aren’t ideal for exercise. If you plan to work out and it has been more than three hours since you last ate, fuel up by eating a banana or a slice of wheat bread with peanut butter.

Try to avoid refined, simple carbohydrates such as white bread.

Drink more water

When you’re dehydrated, your cardiovascular system feels the effects, adversely affecting the flow of blood to your muscles and decreasing your energy levels. Replenish your fluids before, during and after exercise. Water with a bit of salt added is best, but isotonic drinks are also good.

Keep a diary

Tracking your activity and success will help motivate you. Consider recording such things as your waist circumference, the total amount of time you exercise, the distance covered during cardiovascular training and the number of reps, sets and pounds lifted during strength training.

Listen to music

Music makes exercise more fun, and like a training partner, it can distract you and affect your perception of effort. Choose songs that strike a chord.

Exercise in the afternoon

Joints and muscles loosen up during the course of a person’s waking hours, so people with arthritis or stiff joints might find it more comfortable to exercise later in the day.

However, try not to train within three hours of bedtime. Body temperature rises during exercise and can take several hours to drop, which could delay sleep.

Mix it up

Repetitive training can cause boredom and fatigue. If you are a member of a fitness club, use a different cardio machine on every visit, and change your weightlifting programme every four weeks to work different muscle groups.

Get to bed early

Going to bed late makes it harder to get the eight hours of sleep at night that most people need. It also increases the risk of daytime drowsiness, which can get in the way of your commitment to exercise.

If you’re running on limited sleep and start to feel fatigued during exercise, reduce the duration or intensity for that day to give your body a chance to recover.

The writer is a certified fitness trainer who tries to battle gravity and continues to dance, but longs for some bulk and flesh in the right places. She now constantly feels nauseous as her new trainer puts her through a tough regime.

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Beating fatigue


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