Friday, July 22, 2016

Will Training When You're Tired Make You A Better Athlete?

Who says I can't lift when I'm tired? Picture from The Pit
My two boys share the same bed with my wife and I. Two nights ago at about 3 am, the younger one's diapers malfunctioned and leaked. I had to help my wife remove the soiled mattress covers while my older kid snored through it all. 

It took me a very long time before I fell asleep again, probably at about 5 am. I was soon awakened by my older boy telling me that he needed to pee ..... 

Needless to say, my wife and I were sleep deprived and tired.

Training when you're tired can be tricky. There's also some evidence to suggest that it increases your risk of injury. Especially since energy levels are depleted and you become slower in your reaction and decision making time. This will probably also impact your ability to perform.

Approached properly, training while tired may actually make you a better athlete suggested exercise physiologist Darren Paul and colleagues in their study. They found that training when you're tired can result in better maintenance of strength and improved postural control.

And not only endurance athletes can benefit from pushing past fatigue during training. 

Soccer players in their research who performed strength or balance exercises at the end of their training sessions (rather than at the beginning) were not as affected by fatigue during their matches.

When you train through fatigue and you learn to push through something difficult, it definitely gives you confidence. It's definitely empowering and shows you that you can do more than you likely thought you could.

Here are some personal suggestions as to how you can train while fatigued without getting hurt in the process and improve your performance.

Always focus on your form. Good form and technique has to always come first regardless of whether you're tired or not. If you need to push through fatigue while training, do it while maintaining proper form. If you're going too hard or too fast but not having good form and technique then you need to slow down. That will minimise your risk of injury. 

Some marathoners I've treated will often do a shorter steady paced run the day before their long run. They may run 10 km at their marathon race pace the day before their long run. They will then have some level of fatigue and glycogen depletion from the previous day's run to simulate fatigue setting in later in a race while doing their long run.

While I was still training for triathlons, brick workouts were the norm. Meaning we often stack workouts on top of each other (like stacking bricks). We often practise short but very quick running after a bike training session which forces our legs to adapt quickly. 

Training through fatigue also mean you do not do three days of interval-like running in a row. If you do that you're definitely walking down the path to injury or illness. You are training through fatigue to gain fitness and to get stronger as a result of that stress. So you definitely need to factor in appropriate or even extra recovery to help your body recover and adapt. Only then can you emerge stronger.
zzzzz ....
So my wife went for a run that morning while I was out walking and putting my son to sleep. I didn't exercise that morning but I managed to run home after I ended work at Physio Solutions that evening.


Paul D, Narciss G et al (2014). Injury Prevention In Football. Time to Consider Training Under Fatigue? Aspetar Sports Med J. p 578-581. See the article here.

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