There is a lot of belief that the sorer and more fatigued you feel the more successful your workout is. This then assumes that if you don’t feel sore then your workout wasn’t good enough. This ongoing cycle has created scenarios where the norm is to complete high intensity sessions 5 times a week regardless of how your body is feeling. This alone isn’t sustainable and can lead to injuries, increased susceptibilty to colds and loss of appetite but it also doesn’t give you the full benefit of lower intensity workouts.
So how fatigued should you be?
There are different levels of fatigue surrounding workouts – first there is during a session, then directly after, then the 24 hours after. With each area of fatigue there are a lot of beliefs surrounding how you should be feeling, however how much is actually true?
Exertion can be hard to rate but a good way of doing it is to base it on a scale of 0-10 with 0 feeling nothing at all and 10 being very exhausted. Ideally you don’t want a whole workout in the 8-10 range as this can lead to a host of problems in the long term as your body is constantly put under stress due to the role cortisol plays in the body.
During a session
A lot of people think they need to go at 100% the entire session and be on the brink of exhaustion for their workout to be effective. If their face isn’t dripped in sweat or they don’t have jelly legs, then they believe that they didn’t work hard enough. This just isn’t the case. If anything you should feel more energised after a workout not borderline ruined for the rest of the day.
Depending on the type of session you do can depend on the level of fatigue you will feel during it. Strength based training requires rest breaks between sets and exercises meaning you shouldn’t be trying to achieve a level of 9 or 10 but rather a 5 or 6. Cardio on the other hand may range from a 5 to a 10 depending on the activity – eg. sprinting vs lightly jogging. The main point from an exertion point of view is that you don’t want to be hitting the high numbers for long periods of time – this can lead to injuries, general fatigue and loss of motivation. The key thing is to realise that the higher the exertion doesn’t correlate with a better workout.
After a session
When you get to the end of your workout there is a common perception that if you’re not dripping in sweat then you haven’t worked hard enough. If you’ve done a really good upper body session and you walk out feeling good but you’re not sweating should we really let that ruin what we just achieved?
If your muscles are feeling a bit sore but you're feeling like you can carry on with the rest of the day then that is a good indicator of a good level of fatigue. If your feeling dizzy or lethargic then perhaps it might be time to reassess your workout program and your goals.
24 hours after a session
In the 24 hours after exercising your muscles might feel a bit tender and you might experience general fatigue all over your body but if this goes beyond 24 to 48 hours it is worth questioning your current exercise regime.
Signs of a good workout
- Muscle fatigue (not for more than 2- 3 days)
- Enhanced mood
- Sleeping well
- Reduced stress levels
Signs you’re overdoing it
- Dreading working out
- Ongoing muscle soreness
- More prone to illness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Losing appetite
In terms of fatigue we need to alter our perception on its correlation with exercise. Yes, it’s great to be utterly exhausted at times but by no means should it be every time. Your body is unable to cope to this type of exercise every single time hence it’s important to incorporate a range of exercise types to get the full benefits. Your aim for a workout shouldn’t be to feel wrecked at the end or to feel as if you can walk or drive home. Align your workout with your goals and you’ll quickly learn the varying levels of fatigue.
If you need any help trying to align your workouts with your goals, then please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Fitmiss Team!