How hormonal and other factors affect your ability to maintain proper form in the gym.
By Katie Chasey (republished with permission from www.vpxsports.com)
We all know that fatigue and form don’t play well together. To understand fatigue – that tired feeling you have at the beginning of a workout, not the end of one – we must look at the root cause.
If certain hormones are out of balance you are going to run out of energy. Hormone imbalances can often be so severe that they’re paralysing. Those who experience this type of fatigue often have absolutely no energy left as a result of specific hormone depletion – and you simply can’t execute your lifts with proper form if you’re fatigued this way.
Everybody wants to be where they were at an earlier point or to progress to a future goal, and they want to get there immediately. We need to be smart about how we arrive, and going too fast and too hard, especially at the outset of a programme decreases adrenaline, impacts cortisol release and sends the body into a tailspin of adrenal fatigue.
This condition is compounded when fatigue is intensified as a result of adrenal depletion. Ultimately, adrenal insufficiency or even adrenal fatigue can result in a classic case of chronic fatigue syndrome. Neither is good for your form. The best way to combat this is to move, correct your diet, sleep sufficiently and reduce your stress levels.
Cure Fatigue with Movement
Movement is vitally important to maintaining hormonal balance. Stress must be combated and proper recovery and diet are essential. Sedentary rest days are therefore not beneficial to anyone. Even while sleeping we are active. Active recovery days, on the other hand, are beneficial.
Tip: Walk slowly one hour before bed and go to bed only when you are ready to go to sleep. Even with profound fatigue you aren’t really tired. If you were tired (simply sleep-deprived) then rest would be the cure. You only seem tired because it’s a symptom, but not the problem itself.
Stress and Recovery
If most of us paid more attention to proper recovery we would talk less about over-training. Learn your limitations. You might have the athletic ambitions of a teenager, but you need to contend with the hormone levels of someone much older. We must first understand that hormones run the body and we therefore need to keep them in check. This is where proper recovery comes in.
As an attempt to recover from fatigue people often rest for two days or longer. They then try to ‘reboot’ by using whatever energy they have stored up to catch up on all of the exercise they missed while resting. It is a mistake to try to catch up on two days of work in the two-hour energy phase. You will only crash two hours later and the process repeats itself.
Granted, the busy single mom may have more stress than an 18 year old, but both need to be constantly aware of their environments and adjust their training and their lives accordingly. If you don’t know that you’re under stress then you cannot counter it. It is not unusual to notice it only when it’s full-blown… but by moving, sleeping well, eating right and reducing stressors we safeguard as best we can against any surprises.
Sleep for Recovery
Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is the most important form of sleep for recovery, yet very few people experience enough of it at night. REM sleep is essential to motor skill learning and may therefore be required before performance gains can be fully actualised. It is also the time when our bodily systems recover. However, we can’t experience REM sleep following the elevated cortisol levels that result from running on adrenaline all day. Try going to bed after drinking coffee every two hours all day long. This is the same effect adrenaline has on your body and your ability to sleep deeply.
REM sleep is also essential for your form in a way that is unrelated to fatigue. Without adequate sleep performance gains may not be actualised because neurological connections need the sleep-period to form completely when learning a new motor skill.
Tip: Be consistent with the training programme that you are on. Have it personalised to you and your needs. Forget what the other guy is doing. There is no “one size fits all” programme. Furthermore, routine with regard to your programme and consistency in your life are great ways to monitor your body, which will teach you how best to reduce stress. And don’t try to get in as much training as possible with the limited time you might have. Changes only show up where there are fluctuations in routine.
Diet for Recovery
Certain hormone imbalances are disguised as food allergies. Some foods make us feel better and some make us drowsy, relaxed or sleepy. Be aware of foods with these drug-like effects. Even organic, healthy foods can have this effect on some people. Those who have food allergies, memory issues, energy issues, fatigue issues or pain issues are most affected by the foods they consume.
Fatigue and Form
Having delved a bit into the topic of fatigue it’s clear that it has a tremendous impact on the body. As such it is important that you plan ahead to minimise its impact on your workout. Have your training programme coincide with your schedule. Space your workouts accordingly during the week, periodise your training and listen to your body.
And never rush through a workout. In trying to cram in as much training as possible in a 30 or 40 minute workout block, how much time are you really giving to ensuring you set up properly before a heavy lift?
So be smart with your time and with your training. Never sacrifice on technique to reduce your time spent training, ever. Be intentional with every movement and always remember that form always comes first.