The typical UK winter brings along the standard seasonal ailments of colds and flu’s but one thing I encounter is the fact that people say they are “fatigued.” There is generally no need to feel tired, after all most people have a seasonal break over Christmas and should return to work/ life refreshed but as the nights feel long and the days short it’s hard to remind yourself that we are on the upward spiral heading towards spring.
The actually definition of fatigue in an exercise sense has been dominated by the thought that lactic acid production limits movement. That burning now is known to be the creeping of acidity in the muscles which limits movement rather than the phantom of lactic acid which the body can actually use as an energy source. Whilst physiologist consider technical mechanisms of fatigue the overarching feeling for the layman is that one way or another you hit a wall and your performance is limited en-route to hitting a limit.
Another theory though considers a link between effort and motivation. Motivation factors such as rewards affect performance without changing physiology or a muscles capacity to produce effort. Perception is everything when it comes to effort and motivation and therefore fatigue is also a partial product of motivation. As things get harder your physiology encourages you to slow down and your perception of this is very important. It’s understandable therefore why pushing the body to new lengths or breaking through plateaus is hard as our physiology is working against us.
This resonates perhaps with endurance athletes but for the normal person what does this mean? If you are in a situation where you feel fatigued is it your physiology or is it your head? Answer these questions to see what your answers are:
- Do you sleep for 7+ hours?
- Do you eat a well balanced diet with a good share of protein, carbohydrates and fats?
- Do you perform over 3 hours a week of scheduled exercise or pulse raising activity?
- Do you remain active e.g. 10,000 steps a day?
- Do you drink 2 litres of fluids daily?
- Do you eat over 5 portions of fruit and vegetables daily?
- Do you eat enough fibre daily?
- Are you part of an active community/ family that can help you?
Each of these factors are associated with improved health and therefore will help buffer against fatigue. Activity and exercise build fatigue resistance and a healthy lifestyle and diet will help you feel better.
Answer the following questions:
- Do you smoke?
- Do you drink alcohol regularly (2-3 times a week)?
- Do you sleep less than 7 hours a day?
- Is your diet made up mainly of high glycemic carbohydrates/ sugar?
- Is your job sedentary or do you perform little daily activity?
- Are you part of a sedentary community that hinders you?
If you answer yes to the above they can potentially increase your fatigue levels and they can potentially chip away at your health.
But where to start, consider this- if you have a behaviour on the lower list perhaps consider switching it with one on the top of the list. The top list could be considered foundational behaviours to not only resist fatigue but also to maintain a healthy body. Perception is important as we stated before and encouraging yourself to perform things to make you feel better will help build your self efficacy and confidence going forward. This is not just for people who are struggling for fitness- these positive behaviours will resonate with any athlete who has been successful and the negative behaviours pretty much would shut down anyone’s sporting career a lot quicker than it needs to be. When it comes to motivation or resisting fatigue the evidence is clear- if you give your physiology the best chance to resist fatigue your head stands a greater chance of helping you.