Had a question from a reader (Jen) in my last post that asked the following
“I'm not sure if you've done a post exclusively on this before but I'd be really interested in your thoughts on rest and recovery between workouts/working out while still suffering the effects of the previous workout or non gym based fatigue and managing your fatigue and soreness in every day life.”
I've heard good things about ice baths...close enough?
My response will be predictable on this one, but I can at least elaborate and illuminate. In case anyone is living under any sort of delusion, allow me to be clear; I am always in pain. Like many athletes, if I woke up one day and something didn’t hurt, I’d assume I had died. My left knee is the most usual culprit, as even after my surgery I still have to deal with stiffness and swelling, but if it’s not my knee it’ll be my shoulder, back, hamstrings, elbows, or something else. Pain will migrate through my body, and it’s basically a question of riding it out in one spot before getting “relief” from it by shifting it to another.
However, don’t interpret this to mean that I am in daily agony. This is just pain, and since it is a daily occurrence, it has reset my baseline perception of normalcy such that being in pain FEELS like what being normal is. One of my best examples of this was that, after my knee surgery, I got off my pain meds in 3 days. I started with only have the recommended dosage, and quickly weened myself off from there, mainly because pain meds scare me. After those 3 days, I THOUGHT I was painfree, and then 2 weeks later I realized that I was FINALLY not feeling my surgical pain. In 3 days, I had reset myself to a level of “normal pain”, because it had been way too long since I had experienced a painfree baseline.
You mean this isn't normal?
I am rarely injured, just beat up, and in turn this is a bit of my management strategy for this fatigue and soreness; it’s simply a state of being for me. I’ve learned how to function while being beat up and sore, because it’s how I always am. It DOES take a while to come to terms with that, but through repetition it becomes easier. I used to only want to train when I felt good. If I was too sore or beat up from previous training, I’d tell myself that it would be better for me to rest an extra day and come back feeling good. After a while, I discovered that I was spending a lot of time NOT training. I decided to really look into the matter, and come to the conclusion that a whole bunch of OK workouts were going to outpace a handful of super awesome workouts, and it was ultimately in my best interest to train even when I felt beat up rather than wait for the perfect day for training. Consequently, I got a lot bigger and stronger once I embraced that.
In addition, many times training IS the solution for pain. I followed a training cycle for a long time that involved me ending the training week with the dumbest squat workout I could come up with that day. Dropsets mixed with rest pause was usually a big winner. I’d walk with a limp until about Thursday each week, and in many cases my hamstrings were too tight to do any more productive squatting until that time, which really put a damper on things considering my squat day was Tuesday. I eventually learned that, instead of trying to rest the pain away, I had to train it away. Feeder workouts, which is to say lightweight squats with a focus on getting blood flowing through my legs and prowler work (or any sort of non-eccentric leg work) would have me recovered enough to train again by Tues or Weds, and after that training session the pain in my legs would be completely eliminated.
Yeah, walking normally after this wasn't happening
Regarding non-gym based fatigue, it’s another instance of constant exposure building tolerance. Much like my “practice misery” blogpost, I’ve spent lot of time trying to train under worse and worse conditions while doing my best to maintain or improve my strength, operating under the premise that, if I can STAY strong while I’m fatigued, I’ll be even stronger when I’m fresh. The issue people run into with this approach is that they immediately freak out at the first sign of a strength dip and decide to never train while fatigued ever again because they believe you need to always lift the absolute most possible highest weight you can handle at any given time or you’re “losing gains”. Bullcrap. If that was true, things like rest pause, stripsets, giantsets, short rest periods, etc wouldn’t work. I find the most significant variable is a maintained rate of exertion irrespective of conditions surrounding it. If I push myself as hard as possible while fatigued, I’m going to get as great a growth as I did while pushing myself while fresh.
Life is FULL of opportunities to give this a practice. You can do it while sleeping less, or you can do it after a long hard day, or you can do it by training too many days in a row (GASP, but don’t you HAVE to take a day off between workouts?), etc. I’ve done it while recovering from surgery or after being discharged from the hospital or after some minor surgery, mainly because I’m really stupid. With enough practice, you learn how to eventually zombie through it all, and then, after enough zombie-ing, you learn how to actually thrive under these circumstances. You’ll learn how to stumble up to the bar, see double when you look down to set your feet, focus as hard as you can on not vomiting as you grab the bar, knock out a strong set of deads, then put the bar down and headspin away to rest between sets.
*Phew* only 2 more sets
Probably not the most helpful answer, but it’s what works for me. Keep sucking it up until you can’t.