It’s been one of those weeks. You can’t catch a break, your sleep has been crap and now you’re at the gym and the treadmill is looking more like the dreadmill. Before you start hating on yourself, consider this: You’re exhausted.
Whether you’re run down because of stress, lack of zzz’s or too much exercise, the effects of exhaustion are obvious. (Hello, inability to get out of bed.) “You won’t have motivation to go to the gym, and you won’t be able to give the effort necessary to see the results you want,” says Jim Aruilio, T2 trainer at Equinox Lincoln Park in Chicago. In other words, if you even make it to the gym at all, you’ll be lagging, big time.
Here’s What’s Dragging You Down
Skimping on sleep is the obvious culprit behind fatigue—but an important one. It’s not just the x-factor in brainpower, mood, and even your metabolism, but it’s what allows your body to recharge. “Your body produces growth hormones while you sleep, which helps strengthen your bones and muscles,” says Aruilio. Without enough sleep, your body can’t recover as readily. In the gym, that means you’re struggling to overhead press 10-pound weights when usually you rock out with 15-pounders. Or you’re completely spent 15 minutes into barre class, when normally you go strong for the entire hour.
Feel like you did log enough hours in bed this week? If you dealt with a particularly stressful week, you may still be exhausted. When people were tasked with cycling to exhaustion after doing a difficult brain-sapping task for 90 minutes, they found the exercise more difficult and stopped biking sooner compared to a group who spent that time watching a neutral documentary, a small study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found. While mental fatigue didn’t physically limit them, the participants believed they couldn’t go as long or as hard when their brains were spent.
Exhausted? Go Ahead and Sleep In, Already
For all the talk about how you need to stick to a workout plan (Don’t let anything get in your way! Make it a priority!), sometimes your body is sending you a big fat signal that you need to skip your workout and rest already.
“Physically you may notice a decrease in performance, like all of a sudden one push-up feels like you’re wearing a 20-pound weighted vest,” says Aruilio. “You might also experience difficulty getting a good night’s sleep or feel unusually tired throughout the day.”
Pay attention if your usual motivation just isn’t there, you start dreading a workout or you’re not finding your favorite hot yoga class fun anymore. That’s your body’s way of saying, “I need a break!”
And if you’re mid-workout when you start to fatigue beyond what feels normal, call it and cut it short. “People constantly tell me that they are tired or sore and they think their body is telling them something. My answer is always: ‘It is!’” explains Aruilio.
When your bod is sending you loud and clear signals, don’t be afraid to take a day or even a week off. “You’re not going to wake up the next day five pounds heavier just because you missed a day,” says Aruilio. A rest day plus a good night’s sleep will do the trick for most people, he says.
If you’re the type of person who needs to do something otherwise you go bananas, yoga or light stretching will help you stay active while recharging. And light activity may even up your energy, research shows. Then you can go back to being your bad self at the gym tomorrow.
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