Fatigue and Performance

Author: Billy Snyder

Training stimulus creates fatigue. The body thus adapts to this fatigue. Too little fatigue, the body doesn't care to adapt.  Too much fatigue, the body cannot adapt fast enough before more fatigue is accumulated.   How does this relate to performance/fitness?  Well, accumulated fatigue masks performance.  In order to express the highest level of performance, fatique needs to be as minimal but not so minimal that peak performance depreciates.

What is common to see, is someone start their training hard right at the beginning and accumulate huge amounts of fatigue.  When it is hard at the beginning how much can you more can you consistently progress?  Consistently is the key.  Not how fast can you progress but how consistently can you?  Unless, that fatigue is mitigated,  it's lingering can become harmful.  This can lead to overtraining.

"In his studies G. Folbort has proven that exhaustion processes stimulate restoration processes.  [Yet] very high fatigue resulting from extensive muscular work is not desirable as recovery processes will stretch out for a long time and the athlete will enter the next training session with reduced work capacity" (Vorobyev, 1977).

"Today athletes more and more take training sessions in a phase of some underrecovery. Such training better stimulates recovery functions and has a positive effect of the growth of results.  But constant training in the state of underrestoration could have dangerous consequences...chronic fatigue and overtraining" (Vorobyev, 1977).

Overtraining is when the accumulated fatigue is held on by the body for too long causing the body's ability to reduce fatigue to be impaired.  Peformance can become deteriorated for weeks, months, and possibly years, if severely overtrained.

Some signs from chronic overtraining:

  • Joint problems
  • Scar tissue development and the possible tearing of such tissue
  • Chronic Inflammation

True overtraining, however, is actually pretty rare. What most people start to experience is Overreaching.  This is the point of which fatigue accumulation gets pushed past your body's point to recover.  If volume is lowered or deloading occurs once this point has been reached, the body will adapt from the hard training while recovery occurs.  Don't push furthur anymore though. Cycle back and start the process over.

Some signs of overreaching might be:

  • Unable to maintain usual reps at a certain weight
  • Not longer sore but having dull aches
  • Unmotivated, lethargic, and struggling to meet minimum efforts (Scientific Principles of Strength Training, 2015)

How to avoid overtraining

  • Eat enough to actually sustain your level of activity.  Your body needs food to fuel workouts but to also replenish and create adaptations from the workout.
  • Sleep.  I understand people have seasons in their lives where uniterrupted and deep sleep is a privilege versus a right.  Kids can really throw a wrench into the mix.  I just want it to be understood that if someone gets 2 hours of sleep, their day's training should not be full throttle.  You would end up doing yourself more harm than good.
  • Figure out what is optimal volume for yourself.  This sounds complicated and in reality, it is.  Everyone has a different training age and history. Some people have worked up to a point of being able to tolerate a higher volume.  It takes time which is unfortunate. However, it is safer than seeing how long you can push your body's limit because at some point you will find it.
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