***K the Head, Listen to the Body – Fatigue.
Recently, over on the EC Athlete Page (FB, private), there have been numerous discussions on fatigue. How people manage the daily/ weekly dips in energy (and sometimes motivation), what they look for to recognise the early onset of deep fatigue, and what course of action they take – if any.
The best part, is the all of the EC athletes are sharing their personal experiences with varying levels of fatigue and how it affects them. Not just from a training/ performance level, but from a more in-depth personal and emotional level.
That’s powerful because ultimately that is the real shit that endurance athletes deal with. That is the stuff that can and will happen over the journey of race preparation. It’s not a given per se, but the very nature of physiological progression means that at some point, the fatigue needle is going to be pushed further.
It can become a nasty cycle.
Not everyone likes talking about it though (outside of EC – obviously). It’s often a taboo topic amongst the triathlon community. Amidst the pretty pictures and ride-selfies can be an unwillingness to admit when you are truly in a hole and need take corrective action.
Part of that is just the reality of the modern day (we all know my stance on this. I will refrain from any SoapBox activity – for now), but part of it is also how we are all wired.
It’s easy to think that when you are fatigued, you are soft. That you are giving up on yourself, your goals, your dreams and letting everyone down as a result.
Which, is complete bullshit.
That mindset (and that’s all it is) is just fatigue talking. You cannot see the bigger picture because you are just so damn tired.
Fatigue clouds judgement.
The more severe the fatigue. The less able you are to accurately perceive how things really are. Inevitably, you will start to see the worst of everything.
But fatigue is a tricky beast. Training stimulus, as a progressive tool, will evoke varying levels of fatigue. And because training isn’t isolated from the rest of your life, then there are loads of outside influences that will affect your fatigue levels.
Fatigue is something that you can (not always, but for the most part) control.
The HARDEST part is understanding the call you need to make. It requires a high degree of:
These are traits we all possess but when you’re in the middle of a decent fatigue low, it can be quite hard to see things for what they are.
So you have to know, and always be looking for, your clues.
Mine are almost always in this order:
Cranky (beyond the standard PeteLeverLevel).
Cravings (I don’t eat sweet foods but when I’m starting to crack – I start craving chocolate or similar).
Apathy towards training (this is usually the last stand before a big fall – when I wake up and hate exercise – I know it’s time to shut down).
If you are a resilient endurance athlete, most times you can get away with small doses of pushing past the grey and into the red zone, but if you continually do so, without sufficient time resting or recovering, then it’s the hole in which you find yourself. The more you do that, the deeper the hole gets.
I’ve done it. And We’ve worked with plenty of athletes who have done it too. It’s never pretty. And it can permanently ruin your appetite for sport.
Altering a training session or taking a recovery day isn’t going to ruin your training progressions. Taking a rest day isn’t either. Spending weeks in a hole will though.
Part of our responsibility as coaches is to guide athletes out of that process – but hopefully avoid it all together. An athlete also bears some responsibility there too: in becoming more self-aware and knowing when to make the right calls.
If you are dialled in as an athlete, you can gain significant leverage from healthy doses of fatigue. In the modern day, we have access to plenty of apps, devices and tools to help us navigate through the weeds.
At the end of the day, when you sit down and ask yourself: what is really going on here, what is my body telling me – that is when you start to really understand your own fatigue levels.
Sometimes you just have to tell the head to shut up and pay more attention to what the body is saying.