Exhaustion

Been training for a while? Not making any further gains? Fitness actually going backwards?

Have a look at these symptoms:

  • Anxiety/restlessness
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Aches and pains that won’t heal
  • Always tired
  • No more gains in your training/decreasing performance
  • Always poorly/decreased immune system
  • Depression

What you do with your exercise programme will have an impact on all of those things.

So that you can decide what you want to do here, I’m going to use two examples.

We’ll start with Mr A.

Mr A gets up early, drives through lots of traffic to get to work and sits in an office, maybe goes out for lunch, and then sits in his office some more until he drives home, where wife and children are awaiting for their Man Of The Cave to help with said children, homelife and such.

Sometimes, he gets stressed, other times tired, and those symptoms above can creep in.

Sound familiar? Is this you? Here’s a solution: Move More.

All the time you’re at your desk/in meetings etc stuff is happening that stresses you, and by this I mean stuff that “mind occupies”. That twerp from accounts has emailed asking for something, and the request is a totally fair one but it’s a snotty email, who the hell does he think he is, and when I asked him for one little report he needed to be chased three times and here he is demanding action in the next hour, grrrr!

You fire back the necessary info, but there is now an unaddressed need - your body, for a moment there, thought that Fight or Flight was needed and “helped” by rearranging some arteries to divert blood to muscles and altering blood pressure, and then gave you a little squirt of adrenaline - helpful stuff for our ancestors, not so helpful for a chap that has stay immobile in a meeting.

And if you can’t let go of that chip of anger, you’ll keep on getting squirts of unwanted adrenaline. What happens when our bodies produce adrenaline that doesn’t get used? Cortisol, that’s what.

Cortisol gets a bad rap because in every study it has been shown to cause a lot of damage and seriously disrupt homestasis (that feeling of contented normality).

So why does the human body produce cortisol? Well actually cortisol helps build and repair muscle, and is essential for a number of hormonal chains and receptors.

So cortisol is what is left in high amounts in the bodies of stressed office workers everywhere, and is that good or bad?

Well, how much are you moving?

Cortisol and skeletal joints have a special relationship - if you have cortisol in your blood, your synovial joints will gobble it up for you and help turn it to constructive uses. If you don’t move, it proverbially gets bored and starts spray painting it’s Tag on bus stops. You can’t blame it, really; it’s there because on some level you signalled that you are getting jumped by a tiger (so to speak).
Let’s have a look at Mr A’s WEEK (not day - very important) He’s sitting in a car, briefly walks to the office, much sitting and stressing, sitting in a car again, sitting to help with homework, for dinner, lays in bed, sits in car, sits in office and so on.

He needs to move MORE. The best exercise solution is to move a treadmill into his office so that his moving joints can convert any adrenaline towards muscle synapse before it stimulates cortisol, and gobble up any other cortisol while its at it. (Ok so not too practical, let’s point out that certain breathing and meditation techniques are probably more appropriate during his working day)

A more practical solution than swapping a desk for a treadmill is 30 minutes of brisk walking each day, which can be split up to three 10 minute walks, morning noon and night. Happy days; lunchbreak = 15 min walk, gets home “back in 15 minutes dear” and voila - a HUGE relief of hormonal pressure will result, homestasis starts to resume.

HOW TO TAKE ACTION: if all else fails, go for a 30 minute walk when you get home and wipe the slate clean. You’ll feel better, less achey, energised, more “I can cope”, and so on. I could really go off on one here, but a half hour walk has proven more beneficial for depression than pharmaceutical grade medication! And the state of the mind follows the state of the body just as the state of the body follows the state of the mind.

Movement is also key for your lymphatic system, so will help those aches and pains. It will also give you some “me” time to bounce thoughts around in your head (a.k.a. meditation).

So add up your movement, and its intensity, through the course of a week and if you don’t have about four hours a week of cutting about then, well, get cutting about!

Sorry, some army slang there - get running around/moving/getting things done, in plain English.

Now Mr B, on the other hand, also has all of the above symptoms; lets add up his weekly activity: like Mr A, Mr B gets up early for work but cycles in to work rather than drives. Like Mr A, Mr B mostly sits in an office but spends his lunchbreak exercising - either brisk walking, or making use of the company gym. On the cycle ride home, he stops at the gym to workout (he’s determined to get buff).

So Mr B does around 5 hours of cycling, another 3-5 hours cardio in the company gym, and another 5 hours working out in an average week, and that’s not counting the weekend.

Now Mr B finds he’s not going forward anymore - quite simply, his body is not being given adequate chances to rest and heal.

A mate of mine, a great trainer based in Woking, once landed himself a case of full blown Exhaustion (note the capital letter). He had to abstain from ANY form of exercise for THREE MONTHS. It was torture for him, but a few years down the line and he’s fighting fit (literally) healthy and looks like something off the cover of Mens Health.

He was doing LESS exercise than Mr B.

If you add up your weekly exercise and it looks like Mr B’s, take another look at those symptoms and just remember that chappie realised he had a problem when . . . he collapsed and was rushed to hospital. He could have died (not likely, true, but if he was say, twenty years older (40something) then not so unlikely actually, not so unlikely at all) and let’s not think of what could have happened if he had been driving down a motorway when his body decided to shut down and reboot.

Eeek.

What I’m saying is, this is potentially very serious. Doing too much as a one off is great - painful, maybe, but good in the scheme of things (which is why you need to look at your weekly activity levels, not day-to-day); doing too much physical activity week after week after week . . . veeeery dangerous.

The key thing to do is refer to your exercise diary - if you’re doing loads of phys and your scores are all going the wrong way, flag it up, there’s a problem somewhere. If you’re little aches and pains just won’t go away, flag it up. If you wake up every morning and feel like something scraped off a camel’s hoof and haven’t even been drinking, flag it up.

The second thing to consider is your activity levels across your lifeline; someone who was very active as a teenager, who then works behind a desk for thirty years before taking up a very physical job - e.g. dustman - is a prime candidate for physical exhaustion. Yes, you were very fit when you were young - but you’re not young anymore! You had an exercise routine for someone who spends 40 hours/week behind a desk, now you spend 40 hours/week chasing a dustcart - you need to change your programme to reflect that.

We live in a world where the common belief is Do More, Do More, Do Even More but like anything, you can over do it. If you can relate to Mr B, take a week off and see how you feel. If you can relate to Mr A, stop making excuses and go for a brisk walk - the time you “waste” exercising will pay itself back as you become more efficient and productive as a result.

Here’s a final thought on the matter:

Exercise can kill tiredness, and rest is not laziness.

Thank you for reading