DOMS V Fatigue

One of the hardest things for a regular gym goer can be knowing the difference between DOMs and fatigue.

Most of us are aware of the concept of over training, but in reality most of us don’t really hit genuine over training territory, we can however reach the point of real fatigue, which could unchecked put us at risk of overtraining.

The key is knowing the difference between your body feeling DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) which can be a normal sign that you have pushed your body harder than normal in a particular training session or accross a particular week, but which should go within a day or two, being tired (which could be because of lack of rest/sleep) and actual fatigue.

Fatigue is more than being tired, it can manifest itself in a variety of ways that go beyond just feeling a bit kanckered, including; difficulty concentrating, having less stamia than normal, difficulty sleeping or sleep not making you feel any better, anxiety, lacking motivation and feeling less enjoyment from things you normally like to do.  These symptoms also normally last for longer than those of pure tiredness and can feel more intense making everything feel harder not just your training.

From experience I would say that fatigue can also make your body feel sore, giving you almost DOMS like symptoms, which can sometimes lead us to thinking we have DOMS which we can just push past when in fact our bodies are probably fatigued and need a real break.

Normally, and as long as you act quickly enough a few days down time (mentally as well as physically) will often get you back to feeling ok again.

So the key is recognising in yourself when you are tired because you’ve worked hard and when you are geninely fatigued and at the point of needing a rest.

For me, the key give away if enjoyment.  I don’t mind DOMS normally as they normally occur when my training is going well.  When I start to feel frustrated in sessions or start making excuse not to train and everything hurts I know the time has come to take a few days off and regroup.

The key here is learning to listen to your body as we all react in different ways and recognise and react to your own body.  Overtime you may see patterns which you can then work around to ensure you don’t reach the point of fatigue.

The most important thing to remember is no matter how much you like training sometimes you need to rest.

 

 

 

Things I’ve Learnt – Re-Blog

I wrote this six months ago- all still remarkably true and relevant.

  1. You aren’t perfect.

I think I’m like most people in that when I start something new I want to be 100% perfect or I feel like I’ve failed and need to start again.  But it’s impossible to never have slip ups on a long term plan.  Getting out of the cycle of deciding a whole week was a write off become of a bad day or bad meal was one of the biggest factors to starting to see results.

  1. Day 30 (or 60 or 100 or 200) is harder than day 1.

People always talk about Day 1- and in some ways Day 1 is tough, it’s the starting something new, the first step in making changes. But by the same token, Day 1 is exciting – it’s the start of something new, when you feel all positive and hopeful.  Sticking to something once the novelty wear off or once results start to slow is the real challenge.

  1. Consistency and steady progress is boring.

Everyone loves a Facebook status or Instagram post where they can show their before and after pictures demonstrating dramatic results.  Realistically though long lasting changes take time and progress isn’t always immediately apparent.

  1. The loudest people in the gym often don’t have a clue.

When I started venturing into the free weight section alone I used to feel so inferior.  All these people claiming space and equipment and confidently broadcasting their strengths and opinions on how things should be done.  I tend to assume that if someone is loud and forward with their opinion they must know their shit- and yeah, some do.  Get comfortable in the environment and take time to look and you will see however that many do not!  Go in, do your own thing with confidence and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing in terms of training or weights.

  1. You need to eat more.

I used to try and keep my calorie intake low – the bigger the calorie deficit the better.  Really, this makes you tired, makes training harder and will eventually stop you getting results.  Stick to a sensible calorie deficit and results will come and will be easier to maintain.

  1. There is no such thing as an ideal diet.

And by ideal I mean those diets you see advertised in magazines- ‘Eat all the cake and still lose weight’ ‘Drink all the Gin and still lose weight’.  We would all like that magic diet which would allow us to eat as much of our favourite foods as often as we like and still loose 10lbs per week.  Essentially, though, if you look at them, all these diets still involve some form of restriction – eat low calorie meals through the day and allow yourself cake everyday in moderation (i.e. a small slice).  You therefore have to accept that you can eat what you want within reason but if you also want to stay within a calorie allowance and hit your Macros you will need to balance that out with sensible options for other meals. I have 4 pretty strict days to allow me the freedom to have 3 pretty relaxed days and stay within my goals.  That means for 4 days a week I sometimes have to say no to things I want in return for that relaxed weekend.

  1. Some days will be shit.

Not all training sessions will be fun, not all will bring PBs, sometimes you will feel like you have made no progress.  If every session was a great session they would just be your normal sessions.  Accept that even a tough session will bring benefits to you and don’t sweat it.

  1. Rest is important

When you start it feels like you will get more results if you keep on going and do as much as you can.  Rest allows your body to recover and prevents over training though and in the long term will improve your results.

  1. You can’t do everything.

It’s tempting to try and master as many things as possible.  Realistically though unless you are naturally talented at something the chances are you will need to devote time to things to master them.  Therefore trying to win a Strongman competition whilst also training for a marathon is probably not going to work.  Pick your thing and focus on that.  I wanted to run a second marathon but with teaching classes around my full time job I had to accept that finding time to fit the training in would not be possible and as I didn’t want to take a break from teaching I put that aim on the back burner.

  1. Weight is a bad indicator of progress.

Muscle weighs more than fat, your body is full of water blah blah blah.  At first you may be able to monitor your weight- eventually you will need to go off clothes size or pictures if you don’t want to feel completely demotivated.

Things I’ve learnt over the last 18 months

  1. You aren’t perfect.

I think I’m like most people in that when I start something new I want to be 100% perfect or I feel like I’ve failed and need to start again.  But it’s impossible to never have slip ups on a long term plan.  Getting out of the cycle of deciding a whole week was a write off become of a bad day or bad meal was one of the biggest factors to starting to see results.

  1. Day 30 (or 60 or 100 or 200) is harder than day 1.

People always talk about Day 1- and in some ways Day 1 is tough, it’s the starting something new, the first step in making changes. But by the same token, Day 1 is exciting – it’s the start of something new, when you feel all positive and hopeful.  Sticking to something once the novelty wear off or once results start to slow is the real challenge.

  1. Consistency and steady progress is boring.

Everyone loves a Facebook status or Instagram post where they can show their before and after pictures demonstrating dramatic results.  Realistically though long lasting changes take time and progress isn’t always immediately apparent.

  1. The loudest people in the gym often don’t have a clue.

When I started venturing into the free weight section alone I used to feel so inferior.  All these people claiming space and equipment and confidently broadcasting their strengths and opinions on how things should be done.  I tend to assume that if someone is loud and forward with their opinion they must know their shit- and yeah, some do.  Get comfortable in the environment and take time to look and you will see however that many do not!  Go in, do your own thing with confidence and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing in terms of training or weights.

  1. You need to eat more.

I used to try and keep my calorie intake low – the bigger the calorie deficit the better.  Really, this makes you tired, makes training harder and will eventually stop you getting results.  Stick to a sensible calorie deficit and results will come and will be easier to maintain.

  1. There is no such thing as an ideal diet.

And by ideal I mean those diets you see advertised in magazines- ‘Eat all the cake and still lose weight’ ‘Drink all the Gin and still lose weight’.  We would all like that magic diet which would allow us to eat as much of our favourite foods as often as we like and still loose 10lbs per week.  Essentially, though, if you look at them, all these diets still involve some form of restriction – eat low calorie meals through the day and allow yourself cake everyday in moderation (i.e. a small slice).  You therefore have to accept that you can eat what you want within reason but if you also want to stay within a calorie allowance and hit your Macros you will need to balance that out with sensible options for other meals. I have 4 pretty strict days to allow me the freedom to have 3 pretty relaxed days and stay within my goals.  That means for 4 days a week I sometimes have to say no to things I want in return for that relaxed weekend.

  1. Some days will be shit.

Not all training sessions will be fun, not all will bring PBs, sometimes you will feel like you have made no progress.  If every session was a great session they would just be your normal sessions.  Accept that even a tough session will bring benefits to you and don’t sweat it.

  1. Rest is important

When you start it feels like you will get more results if you keep on going and do as much as you can.  Rest allows your body to recover and prevents overtraining though and in the long term will improve your results.

  1. You can’t do everything.

It’s tempting to try and master as many things as possible.  Realistically though unless you are naturally talented at something the chances are you will need to devote time to things to master them.  Therefore trying to win a Strongman competition whilst also training for a marathon is probably not going to work.  Pick your thing and focus on that.  I wanted to run a second marathon but with teaching classes around my full time job I had to accept that finding time to fit the training in would not be possible and as I didn’t want to take a break from teaching I put that aim on the backburner.

  1. Weight is a bad indicator of progress.

Muscle weighs more than fat, your body is full of water blah blah blah.  At first you may be able to monitor your weight- eventually you will need to go off clothes size or pictures if you don’t want to feel completely demotivated.

What is and isn’t Role Model for a Fitness Professional / Brand

As a fitness instructor or PT, how does your own lifestyle and physique matter?

In recent months I have seen so many Facebook posts debating this issue in a variety of ways and from a wide range of perspectives:

  • From an individual instructors point of view does it matter if you are, in less than perfect condition? What does out of shape even mean? What is too big or not fit enough? Can you go the opposite way and be intimidating or make people feel bad because of your physique or fitness? Is your lifestyle role model material and how do you balance your own real life situations with clients expectations of you?  Does any of that even matter or should people just mind their own business?
  • For Fitness brands – How should you select people to represent your brand? Should everyone look the same or should diversity matter? If diversity matters should that trump their ability to do the job?  Are there some shapes that should not be represented no matter what public opinion says because they do not fit your brand or what you want to represent (perhaps you view them as unhealthy)?

For myself I have been overweight, I have been very skinny and am now less skinny, more lean.  I’m not the strongest person in the world but could be described as reasonably strong.  I’m definitely a work in progress.

I have had a lot of positive feedback from members over the last year as they have seen my body become leaner and more muscular / defined.  I work in a gym where there are already instructors with very good physiques (far better than mine) who definitely inspire a lot of members.  Equally however for many (particularly females) seeing my shape change has created a dialogue about how I’ve done it and hopefully created a positive message that progress takes time and patience and doesn’t just happen overnight.  So for me for every member / client who wants their instructor to look like a Greek God there will be others who find more motivation from somebody who seems to be working on their own fitness at the same time. Likewise, I think people generally appreciate that instructors have real life problems too and perhaps they have been injured or ill and are coming back from that and may not be in their peak shape – that in itself can provide motivation and inspiration to people.

Physically therefore I think fitness instructors can be positive role models regardless of physique.  Here I think the most important element is how we promote health and fitness.  I tend to be about balance – we want to eat well and exercise  to feel good and give us energy but we have to allow ourselves room to live too, and unless we are training for a very time specific goal 80/20 is a good rule to live by.  How should you find that balance? For me there isn’t a right or wrong answer- what works for me may not for someone else.  If we promote sensible healthy habits and show that we live by these rules I think we are decent role models – why pretend we never let a cake or glass of wine pass our lips and provide people with unrealistic expectations for themselves, which just set them up for failure.  If we preach moderation but then over train ourselves or say you should eat everything in moderation but dangerously restrict our own calorie intake i don’t think that is great role modeling.

I think for fitness brands this issue is far more complex but the importance of presenting positive role models becomes even more important as these people will have greater exposure than your average fitness instructor.

These brands are businesses so how they select the people who will represent it naturally will depend on and reflect their values.  For some people diversity seems to be the key – customers want to see a mixture of ages, sizes, backgrounds to make a brand feel inclusive- they want to feel represented.  I tend to lean more to the school of thought that people should be selected because they are the best people for that job – not because they tick a box on an equality drive.  Yes sometimes this means that some groups are under represented but this highlights the issue of why some groups are more or less likely to succeed in certain roles (e.g. why there tends to be fewer women on boards in business etc.) .  Of course if people who are perfectly good for a role are overlooked because they are deemed too old, not skinny enough not attractive enough this would lead me to question that brands values.

It’s actually a more important marketing point than the mere morals of employment law however.  If you area large brand with a big following the type of people you choose to represent you say something about your beliefs.  Can you truly promote inclusivity and everyone being welcome in your world / sphere of the fitness arena if everyone who represents you is a size 8 and under 30? Do these people provide motivation – an inspirational image of what can be achieved? Or does it suggest to customers who are older or larger that they are inferior / do not fit in?

I appreciate this is difficult because if you are good enough to represent a big brand you are possibly at the top of your game – if you are at the top of your game are you therefore likely to be a certain age and size? Or does this train of reasoning exclude the fact that peak fitness isn’t limited to one size / shape / level and therefore there should be more diversity to show a variety of people a variety of ways they could work towards their fitness goals?

Finally, there is one particularly sensitive subject – regarding those people who are very very slim. I say this is sensitive as, the way I see it, there are different reasons someone could look very skinny.  Some people are naturally very slight- they can try all sorts and struggle to put on weight- should these people be prevented to rising to the top of their fields any more than someone who naturally carries weight and find it hard to lose it?  Some people this size however, will be small because they restrict their calorie intake in a way that is not healthy to promote.  Is it responsible of a brand to allow these people to be presented to potentially susceptible customers as role models?  How does one distinguish between the two?  How do you stop the audience from trying to aspire to a physique that may only be attainable to them through starvation even if the person in question is just naturally built like this (it’s a similar debate to that of the Supermodel one which has been ongoing for years)?

On the same token, is it therefore also irresponsible to promote people as role models if they are overweight?  Does this equally imply that this is a healthy aspiration?  Is this balance between not wanting to encourage people to be stick thin or overweight the reason that for some brands everyone ends up looking the same?  Is it possible to strike a balance?

To be honest whilst I know where I stand on individuals instructors being positive role models for their clients / members I’m not sure which side of the fence I sit for brands.  I am torn between wanting more diversity in who is represented within the industry but also against a drive for diversity topping all other aims within fitness.

I do think that in an industry that is largely focused on aesthetics this type of debate is unlikely to ever be settled.

No Jazzy Title, Just an Honest One Today

I’ve struggled to train recently. I’ve also struggled to hit a calorie deficit in the last few weeks, having some really good days food wise and then some days where I’m dramatically overeating all the wrong stuff. This has coincided with not feeling 100% myself.

I don’t know why – nothing has happened to make me feel down and there hasn’t been any reason for my training or food intake to be affected. Often I find the two go hand in hand though – so if my training or diet isn’t great I will feel a bit low and when I feel a bit low I’ll eat my bodyweight in chocolate and train less.

I’ve realised that I, like most people I imagine, get myself caught in self – destructive cycles where if one thing isn’t perfect it feels like nothing is right, and in turn I let myself sabotage other areas of my life. I get a downer on myself where I feel like everything I do is substandard. The last few weeks I’ve questioned myself on so many things that to others may seem ridiculous and been upset about things I should have brushed off.

One thing I’m getting better at though is recognising this in myself, because this is when you can step back, get some perspective and draw a line.

  • Realistically I’ve still trained 2-3 times every week for the past few weeks, as well as teaching and running a half marathon – so I’ve not really been lazy.
  • I’ve finished the last two weeks in a calorie surplus which isn’t great, but I’ve hit my protein goals and I’m not overweight so I’ve not done any lasting damage.
  • I’ve been a bit down but I know I’ve had some stressful situations to deal with plus been poorly so this isn’t the start of something terrible, I’ve just let myself get a bit stressed.

What I’ve started to try and do when this happens is train – no pressure- just go to the gym and do something (and enjoy it) and then eat nice but fresh food that isn’t processed and sugar filled. Normally I’ll start to feel more positive quickly just from this little system.

Three points from this:

  • A week or so ago was Mental Health Week and there were lots of great posts- but people struggle all year round so don’t be afraid to speak up at other times if you feel like everything is getting to be just a bit much.
  • Sometimes depression doesn’t affect you all in. Sometimes you are perfectly fine and functioning just not feeling 100%. This doesn’t mean it’s any less important to recognise and deal with it – and being aware of how you feel and how you can improve your mood can sometimes help you catch yourself.
  • For me – physical wellness and mental wellness are closely linked. Small habits make a big difference to my mind-set.

Overtraining

I had my blog post ideas for the week all lined up.

But I’ve changed my mind.

Instead I want to talk about overtraining.

Overtraining is a strange concept- especially if you talk about it to non gym goers. To those who don’t live in gym land – If you are someone who would like to visit the gym regularly but never quite manage to fit it into your routine – the idea that you can train too much is a bit odd. When you first get into training the idea that more and more and more isn’t necessarily better is confusing.

If you train daily (or almost daily) however overtraining is a real thing.

And the problem is you don’t normally realise this until you have overtrained.

Feeling drained, an increasing number of aches and pains, muscle soreness that won’t ease, a drop in performance, insomnia, headaches, irrationally hating everyone around you, irritability, feeling run down or even poorly, losing all motivation to actually train. These are all signs of overtraining.

Overtraining can cause real damage to your body and take a long time to recover from if you push too hard for too long. Once you’ve overtrained once though and are aware of the signs you can be smarter about spotting it early and acting before you are hit by lots of negative effects.

If you’re really smart you’ll cycle your training so you have periods of intense work followed by lighter weeks, with different focuses so the body can recover. This will reduce the risk of overtraining and allow you to get better results.

Even if you do this however sometimes you will still hit a wall. Just out of nowhere. When you do you need to listen to your body and adjust your routine and recover. This might mean adjusting your goals a little but will also mean you can continue to improve rather than stagnating and becoming the grumpiest person in existence.

I have just had a couple of light / deload weeks. I’ve been learning new choreography for classes and this and all the associated adrenaline rushes take it out of you so my own training has been deliberately lighter. I’d dipped a bit but thought I’d recovered well.

Despite this on Monday when I almost burst into tears for reasons known only to my hormones (and possibly related to severe tiredness caused by a day of 9.5 hours in an office, a spin class, a Body Pump class, a HIIT class and a 4.5km run) I knew I was possibly at the point of having over trained. When people start asking if you are being irrational again and when you’ve eaten 3 slices of chocolate cake in one day, that’s also another clue that perhaps you need a break!

So I’ve pulled back a bit for a few days. I’ve taught my classes and done some light stuff in the gym just to keep moving but reduced intensity dramatically and have booked Friday off work to have a lie in and just generally slow down the pace. I don’t think I have reached the point of actually having overtrained but I might have physically done a bit too much recently.

I think when people think about overtraining often the question is ‘how do I know if I have’? I’m not an expert but my thought process is if you are questioning whether you have overtrained chances are you have or are seriously close to it.

Caring less about labels and symptoms and just listening to your body and reacting to what you feel can make a world of difference in staying physically and mentally well.