Fatigue, Busy Schedule, and Training

Walking into a weight room, dragging ass and just feeling run down is never a fun feeling. If it’s in the morning, it has the potential to ruin your whole day. In the evening, it can make the whole day feel like a wash.

Working long hours, stress from work and home life, and missing sleep or meals all have an effect on how you perform. A hard workout, or a new PR set during the week can potentially affect the rest of the weeks training due to soreness. The thing is, for most of us, we have our training planned out in advance, and it’s usually stuffed into the only free time we could find between all the other commitments we have. To come into your planned training event dragging ass, and just not feeling it can be quite the let down.

I have found a few ways to deal with this, and still come away with a good training session despite the mental or physical fatigue. These aren’t new ideas, but these have worked for me in the past, and continue to work for me. Some of them may work for you.

  • Prepare mentally before you even get to the training.

Switching gears can be hard, and with more on your mind the harder it will be. Prep your mind by using visualization. On the way to your training, and as far in advance of your start time as possible, begin running your workout over and over in your head. Clear all the clutter out from the day, the day before, the week ahead and the week behind. Changing into my gym clothes is my cue for my imagination to take over.

Visualize working through your warm up, and every rep of your work sets. Imagine the weights you’ll use, the chalk, the clock ticking off the time, and the feeling of exertion in every exercise.

  • Eat something

Eating a pre-workout snack will do wonders. Combine the snack with the visualization work, and imagine it as fueling up for the work ahead. Connect your meal, snack or shake to the workout in your head. Try to keep it all connected, and it will help get you focused and feel less like a checklist- change into gym clothes, check. Visualize, check. Snack, check. warm up,check…. start the training before you even start.

  • Warm up, and test the waters.

The first thing you need to do is conduct your warm up. I have found this to be the best way to really find out how bad I really feel. Getting the blood moving and the muscles working usually is all you need to “get in the mood”. The warm up, if you have set it up to prep your main movers for the work to come, will give you an idea of what you may have to adjust in your plan.

You may find that you need to add extra warm up sets prior to your work sets. Depending on your training sessions up to this point, you may discover you are a bit over trained. If this is the case, the warm up can become your whole workout.

  • Keep to your training schedule, but change the intensity.

If I have a ball busting strength, stamina, or work capacity style workout scheduled and during your warm up you just couldn’t get your body prepped enough due to stiffness, or plain can’t get the motivation to where it needs to be, maintain the schedule, and either adjust the intensity or the resistance you planned.

  1. For example: you have a Crossfit WOD planned of 30 reps of clean and jerk for time- conduct the workout but take away the “for time” element, or lower the weight.
  2. Long run planned, either shorten the distance and add some speed work still meeting the planned distance but with long rests between sprints, or adjust the pace for your whole distance. Sometimes just changing the scenery and running somewhere new is all you need.
  3. Heavy strength session for the bench- change the bar, or use dumbbells. Try floor presses. The change in bar or type of press, if you are not accustomed to the new exercise will still allow you to go heavy, but not as heavy as you would with your usual bench press. The new movement, learning the bar path, etc. will hit your chest just as hard, and the new movement will keep you focused mentally.
  • If a time crunch is the problem, decide the main focus for your workout from your schedule, attack it and cut out the extra work you planned.

If you know time will be a factor in completing your full plan, then decide what is the main focus before you start. Warm up, and get to the meat of it, and then go do whatever other business you have to attend. You may have planned a two hour workout, but out of the 24 hours, you may have ended up with 1. Use it, and get the most out of it you can toward your goal.

  • If you made it to the main work sets, and still not feeling it, or your just dead tired, let the warm up be your training for the day.

If you have tried everything, and didn’t find yourself over trained or injured in your warm up, and you just cannot get your motor started for your planned workout, going right to the cool down could be the best option for you that day. If you are on a run, turn it into a walk. It happens.

With all the possible things that can go on in our lives, sometimes a break is needed. If you did all you could, and it just didn’t work, don’t let it bother you. Take note of what happened, write it down, and learn from it. Take this as a failed attempt, just like going for that 1 rep max attempt. Learn from your mistakes and failures in order to succeed.

  • Don’t be a “pussy”

I apologize for the harsh word, but sometimes we need to say it to ourselves, and others to keep us on track. make sure you make a true assessment of yourself, and do a gut check before abandoning your plan, or skipping something. You can lie to everyone about why you missed training, but you can’t lie to yourself.

Here is an example of a decision point for doing dead lifts as planned.

Weak- Using tight hamstrings as an excuse for not doing deadlifts as planned

Smart- Feeling that twinge in the hamstring on the right leg that usually precludes a hamstring pull like it has done several times before during sprints or deadlifts.

See the difference.

To wrap up, we are all going to have those days where our life, and our training collide. Sometimes we are just tired, and plain worn out mentally from dealing with everything. You can let it get the best of you, take a seat on the great big couch of life and let it all go, or you can try all you can to plan, prepare and give it your best shot to further your goals in training and health.

( MY Flexible planning- I plan off of a five day training/work week. I have three strength days, a stamina focused day, and a work capacity day. I will plug the strength days in on Monday, Wednesday, Friday. The stamina on Tuesday, and work capacity on Thursday. If I miss a day due to work requirements, I move that days workout to Saturday. If I find that I am stuck somewhere without the required equipment for that days workout, I will instead do the stamina or work capacity workout that day ( I plan these two workouts to require minimal if any equipment) and get back to that workout later in the week. If I miss two or more workouts due to work, then i move one to Saturday, and the others are a loss, but i nail that Saturday workout as hard as possible.

When I have an outrageous work schedule on the horizon, I will plan only 3 workouts for the week, and fit them in where I can. Big thing is to keep track of work, home and training on the same calendar. This really cuts the stress level down.)

Till next time, take care and good lifting,


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