It's been a while since my last article, and for that I apologize. School has kept me quite busy, especially as the semester is wrapping up. But today, I wanted to address a topic I see far too often among my friends looking to get healthy, fit, strong, ripped, or whatever else you might want to call it. And that, of course, is the topic of fatigue. You know, tiredness, soreness, yawning-ness....yeah I just made that word up. But you know what I mean. It's that feeling you have the day or two after a really hard workout, where you crawl out of bed, open your eyes, and realize that you want nothing more than to skip today's scheduled workout and curl up on the couch with some chocolate milk and a bowl of cereal. Your muscles hurt, your brain can't think, and you feel so inflexible that it wouldn't be out of the question to attempt to loosen your muscles with a rolling pin. So what should you do? You know you have to work out -- you have a goal you have to meet. But you're sooo tired, and maybe your body is crying for rest. Which should take priority? Your long term goal, or your aching back?
Well, honestly, it depends. Sure, there are times when you should take an unscheduled day off and occupy the couch like it's your J-O-B. But, my loyal readers, you won't be happy with what I'm about to say (or maybe you will, I don't really know.) When it comes down to it, THOSE TIMES ARE FEW AND FAR BETWEEN. If you've been on your workout plan for a while, and it's been working, your body probably can handle the workout for that day, even if it doesn't feel like it. Heck, I work-out 9 times per week, nearly three and a half hours a day (two sessions.) If I'm not walking into the gym a complete zombie, then I know that day will be absolutely fantastic. When push comes to shove, you NEED to learn how to push through fatigue if you're going to get anywhere fast in your workout. If it's not your rest day, it's time to push yourself to your max. Will it be the same maximum level that you had on a good day? Probably not. But as long as you're giving it your all, that's enough.
But I can hear you yelling at me "WHY!?! Why should I force my way through the crappiest, most painful feelings I've ever known!?! What are you doing to me??"
First of all, calm down. Second of all, I'm going to ask you, as politely as possible, to suck it up. Listen, lifting weights hurts. It makes you big, strong, and ripped, but it hurts. It's fun, BUT IT HURTS! If you're not feeling at least a little pain the day after, you're not working hard enough. And to answer the question as to why you should push through the pain, the answer is quite simple: It forces your body to adapt to heavier, more frequent loading. It doesn't just "suggest" to your muscle fibers that they grow bigger and stronger, it FORCES them too. If you're pushing your muscles to the point where they start screaming "NO MORE!!!" to you the next day, then laugh in their face and push them harder. If you do, I can almost guarantee two things will happen.
FIRST: You will make GREAT progress. Heck, I'd say have of the personal records I've set have been on days where I was so sore and tired I couldn't think straight. Something about fatigue brings out the animal in people. You tell me, would you rather lie on your bed, nursing your wounds? Or lift heavier weight for more reps than you ever have before?
SECOND: Your muscles will probably just shut up and work. Sure, you may be in pain now, but unless it's sharp, violent, strained-a-muscle type pain, it will go away when you start forcing your muscles to lift weight again. You will almost always be sore somewhere if you're working out at least 3 days a week. It's futile to avoid working sore muscles, and it's not harmful if you do lift with the same muscle groups again even while they're recovering. Like I said before, this will force even greater muscle gain, and you'll see quick progress. Once you warm up and start lifting, I can almost guarantee all that pain and fatigue will take a back seat to the task at hand, which of course is getting bigger, stronger, faster, and leaner. Sounds great right?
So working through some of the worst fatigue can give you some of the best gains. We know this now. But how can we avoid some of that pain and fatigue in the first place? Well, if you spend a little more time devoted to active recovery work, I bet there won't be nearly as many days where it hurts to pick up your coffee mug, or takes actual effort to keep your eyelids open.
Stretch: After a heavy workout, static stretch your muscles thoroughly, ESPECIALLY your legs. The bigger the muscle, the more frustrating it will be to combat post workout tightness the next day. You can keep things loose and flexible by spending about 10 minutes after your workout really stretching those muscle fibers, which will aid in recovery speed, and will actually help strength gains overall. Plus, you'll be more flexible, allowing for better form and less chance of injury.
Massage/foam roll/lacrosse ball: If you can get someone to give you a massage, do it. If you can't (which probably will be the case), do some foam rolling on your sore muscles, or if you're feeling frisky use a lacrosse ball and really dig in. Caution, THIS WILL HURT! And when it hurts, you know you're doing it right. Massage goes an extraordinarily long way toward helping muscles recover. It loosens them up, and encourages fresh bloodflow to places that usually don't get too much, especially if they're tight as a drum. This bloodflow will allow the muscles to receive better nutrition and hydration, and will help them to grow bigger and stronger, faster. After the massage/rolling session, I bet you'll feel a million times better too.
|Lacrosse ball rolling...like foam rolling, except 10000 times more painful (and effective...)|
Diet/nutrition in general: If you're working yourself to your max, you need to keep your entire diet taylored toward recovery and growth-- lots of protein, quality carbs, and healthy fats. Don't cut calories down, or you'll definitely feel it in your muscles and general level of fatigue. Clean foods go a long way, make sure to eat lots of chicken, vegetables, fruits, and fats like nuts and oils. Heck, what am I talking about, I've got near a million articles all on food. CHECK THEM OUT!
Pre-workout supplements: Sometimes, even after everything, you need a little kick in the butt. A good pre-workout supplement can supply this with a respectable dosage of caffeine, nitric oxide, and creatine, which when combined give you a flood of energy, usually more than enough to kick you out of your funk and into lifting mode. I would suggest Cellucor C4, or Assault by MusclePharm. Both great supplements.
Fatigue, annoying yes, crippling? NO. Of course, it's up to you when you hit the gym. But I'm here to tell you that your body isn't always right when it says you're too tired to hit the heavy stuff. In fact, it's usually wrong (not ALWAYS, but usually. You'll have to find your own threshold, but again, usually it's MUCH higher than people think.) Push through the pain and see great results. Now how can I hammer this point home? Hmmmm....
Don't be a WIMP!