On Rest and Recovery

My daughter and wife have had colds for the past week or so…

Stuffy (and snotty, crusty) nose is the main symptom, which has led to some early mornings where I’m up with Livia somewhere between 4:00-5:30am.

Because of this, I’ve been a bit more tired and when I’ve been able to sneak in a 20-30 minute power nap, I’ve felt much better and operate normally.

But when I haven’t my energy has definitely been sub-par.

On Friday, I had a resistance training session scheduled but cancelled it in favour of doing some mobility work because I had absolutely no gas in the tank.

Back in the day, I probably would’ve ignored my tiredness and “manned up”…

Nowadays though, a little older, a lot less hair and hopefully a tad bit wiser, I realize that I’m not going to win any trophies and there’s no rush, so I have no problem not doing workouts if I think it’ll serve me better in the long run.

Every workout you do depletes your energy and strains the tissues worked. Basically, you’re stressing your body out.

It’s after eating and sleeping for a day or two that your body adapts and comes back stronger from that workout.

But if we go into a workout already tired or in an energy-depleted state, we’re essentially going into it with elevated cortisol.

Cortisol is a stress hormone that when elevated, inhibits the immune system leaving us open to getting sick and down regulates the function of the digestive and reproductive systems (more bloating, more constipation, less sex).

So to get through a workout when we’re already drained, our bodies being ever-so-accomodating, get us fired up by activating the full “fight or flight” response.

Think about it – we’re already tired now we’re going to go and lift 250 pounds on our backsor do a bunch of Chinups like we’re climbing a tree to escape a vicious lion – our bodies definitely see this as a fight!

So, here’s what happens HORMONALLY in our bodies (and how we often react) when we get into the fight or flight response to workout when tired:

1) We get an initial energy rush, fueled by the stress hormones adrenaline and/or norepinephrine, which can make us think, “See, all I needed to do was come to the gym. I feel great now.”

2) Cortisol then gets further increased, which ensures that all energy is directed to the fight/flight muscles and not the other systems, giving us energy for the entire workout. “I feel perfectly fine and I’m just as strong as always.”

3) We ride this hormone “high” for the course of the workout and end it by thinking to ourselves, “I knew it – all I needed to do was workout, I feel so much better now. No excuses!”

And while it’s true that you probably feel better, it’s not a healthy better, but a stress-hormone induced improvement in alertness, energy and focus.

One problem that you might not realize with this is that adrenaline in particular is great at dulling pain – so you may be injuring yourself and not realize it until afterwards and you won’t know why.

But the big problem with this is that when you fail to see this and continue to use this strategy (workout as normal when you’re already exhausted), you’ll soon “break” this system and then you’ll be on the sidelines for a while.

Adrenal fatigue is a term used to describe the syndrome of your adrenal glands (they produce the stress hormones) getting burnt out from being asked to do too much.

It’s definitely not a state you want to be in, so I suggest you listen to your body when it’s telling you you’re dead tired and you’ve got a workout scheduled.

Sometimes, it’s good to ignore it, especially if you know you’ve got lots of R&R time soon after, but sometimes, it’s good to listen, so you don’t burn yourself or your adrenals out.

It just takes a little experimentation and observation of how your body reacts in either scenario to know what’s the right move at the time.

Hopefully, this has enlightened you a bit and helps you not feel bad for “skipping” a workout, only when you’ve got a valid reason, of course.

There’s obviously zero value in being a lazy bum, but I know you already know this otherwise you wouldn’t be here on this VIP Newsletter list. 🙂

Anyway, just thought I’d share as this has been what’s been up in my life for the past little bit, hope it helps.

Coach E

P.S. Instead of my workout, I did a combo of the Kneeling Routine from the Hip Flexibility Solution and the Overhead Routine from the Shoulder Flexibility Solution, as well as some improv, but any work that is more about mobility, technique and activation is perfect for this kinda situation.

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