Sunday, January 14, 2018


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.”

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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.

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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. 

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*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.


  1. Always refreshing to see advice from you on embracing life's obstacles and training in spite of them instead of hammering home how everything has to be perfect and only then you can progress. Also, the last image caption has to be my favorite yet.

    1. This took me a LONG time to come to terms with. I remember many times shutting down an entire workout because I didn't do better than I did the last time, even though the time before I was training under MUCH better conditions. It's too easy to get sucked into the "perfect or nothing" mentality.

      And thanks. I'm just glad he turned out ok after that, or else I'd feel like a real jerk, haha.

  2. It's completely feasible to workout every day if your exercise is structured and varied enough.

    I couldn't do push ups every day. I can't run every day without ending up just exhausted, and dreading the next run. I couldn't do barbell training every day with the same muscle groups. But, if I sprint some days, do calisthenics some other days, run some other days, and do some sandbag work on a different day, it's feasible to work out every day.

    I have been getting a lot of utility out of alternating running, sprinting, and calisthenics days, than when I was just running.

    1. To continue, it's even possible to workout everyday WITHOUT variety so long as volume and intensity are accounted for. One of my favorite ways to accumulate a great deal of weekly volume is daily dips, chins and band pull aparts. But it's usually just 1 big set, rather than a full workout.

  3. Hi Punisher. Thanks for this and thanks for the measured tone of the article. I was expecting more of an all out rant!
    Reading it I realise that I am rarely "pain free". I have almost constant doms in my hamstrings and glutes and my collarbone (broken a year ago) aches to varying degrees depending on what I've been doing in the gym (front squats are not the best for it but I still do them). If I don't feel pain or discomfort after a workout I feel I haven't worked hard enough. But this just feels normal to me so I ignore it and get on with my life.
    And I totally agree that training is often the solution. Many times I feel that I'm too sore or tired to squat or deadlift or whatever but once the warm up sets are done I'm good to go and have a great workout.
    I don't consider myself "hardcore" especially in comparison to yourself and other posters. I don't push myself to the limits you do (give me some slack here though,I am a 51 year old woman). But I do push myself hard and will continue to do so as long as I can because I like the results and have goals I want to achieve. I don't want to be like everyone else. It's just what I do.
    I've been re-reading your earlier posts and getting more out of them the second time around. They give me a new perspective on my own workouts and motives. Keep up the good work!

    1. Jen,

      Glad you appreciated the post. I tend to be a little more level headed when replying to questions, haha.

      Also glad to see we are on the same wavelength here. Many times, I find that I tend to just reorient perspectives such that I'm in agreement with others, despite seeming to be on opposite ends initially.

      Really appreciate you going back through the blog. Always happy to tackle more questions.

    2. I'm still trying to get my head around your "This is it" post (Dec 2016). I can understand it up to a point, but would you really be prepared to "break" yourself and "destroy your body" in pursuit of strength?
      Would you accept potentially ending up like Ronnie Coleman with spinal surgeries and a double hip replacement because he pushed his body so hard to achieve his goals? Or is that too extreme even for you?
      Also, why Emevas? I've googled it but can't find any reference.

    3. There is certainly something wrong with me, haha. The biggest thing is that every member of my family that has passed away has done so in a pretty horrific manner. A good majority passed away from alcoholism issues, while others were various forms of cancer. I've not known anyone in my bloodline that made it to the end of their lives in good repair, fully functional and able, and instead most were in pain and broken...and that was just from living. In my mind, it's simply an inevitability that it's how my end will come, and in something of a self-fulfilling prophecy I'm causing it to happen as well. I have self-awareness enough to recognize this but not enough emotional restraint to be able to think it's not absolutely crazy and within my power to stop. So, I figure, if this is the end, I might as well appreciate who I am BEFORE this happens. I figure I can either realize my potential and be in pain or not and STILL be in pain.

      That having been said, I am spared a little in that, without the use of anabolics, I won't be able to push myself to those extreme levels. I'll get as good as I can, but I'm not going to break the law to get there, and that seems to be my line in the sand.

      As for Emevas: it's a name I came up with when I was 14 for a video game I was creating, and it just kinda stuck as my internet handle. Been using it for years and it's how a lot of folks "know" me. I've seen a few other folks steal it on other places, but for the most part it's "me".

    4. Haha. I legit searched for what you were up to by using the handle, because searching for your name turned up an MLB player with a bad beard job and shifty eyes, who is also clearly not rocking the baseball cap (to be fair, those are hard to pull off).

  4. Ok. But sounds like their demise was brought on by unhealthy/bad lifestyle choices rather than a genetic inevitability so it's not necessarily your fate.

    1. For the alcoholism, sure, but the cancers didn't seem that way. Some were smokers and drinkers, and some led moderate healthy lives, yet the end was the same. Just from my perspective, life seems to end painfully, and it's something I've learned not to fear but to accept and appreciate the time I have not in that pain.

    2. I agree life (or old age) does end in pain and a loss of dignity but it's not something I or most people want to think about. Kudos to you for accepting it and not fearing it.
      I used a SSB for squats in training for the first time today. Really liked it. I could get depth like in a front squat and really felt it in my upper back and quads. I'm going to keep it in my programme for the next six weeks. I've never seen anyone use it in the gym and I wouldn't have tried it if it wasn't for reading your log so thanks

    3. That is awesome to hear! The SSB is a great bar. So much value in it.