Fatigue is a reason to skip a workout, but there are ways to combat that tired feeling

April 22, 2013

Fatigue is one of the many reasons why people skip or cut short their workouts. But unlike true physical exhaustion, fatigue is a perception — and your perceptions can be changed.

By modifying factors that contribute to this sense of tiredness, you can make exercise seem easier, which will help you to do it more often and with more enjoyment. What’s more, exercise itself can make you feel less fatigued and more energized.

Consumer Reports recently combed through the research and spoke with exercise scientists to compile a set of fatigue-fighting tips.

Eat carbohydrates.

Low-carb diets are popular, but they aren’t ideal for exercise. Having insufficient carbohydrates in your system keeps your body from getting the maximum benefit of strength-based activities, such as weightlifting and running sprints, according to a 2004 review in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism. Low-carb eaters can also experience increased levels of fatigue from exercise. That’s why diets such as the Atkins plan aren’t recommended for athletes.


Eating, drinking and sleeping properly can help make exercise less of a chore and more of a treat. (ISTOCKPHOTO)

If you plan to work out and it has been more than three hours since you last ate, fuel up by eating a banana or a whole-wheat bagel with peanut butter. Try to stay away from refined, simple carbohydrates such as white bread.

Drink more water.

When you’re dehydrated, your cardiovascular system feels the effects, weakening the flow of blood to your muscles and decreasing your energy. Replenish your fluids before, during and after exercise, and bump up the amount if you sweat heavily or the air temperature is high.

Keep a diary.

Tracking your activity and success will help motivate you, just as a calorie log helps a dieter. Consider recording such things as your waist circumference, the total amount of time you exercise, the distance covered during cardiovascular training and the number of reps, sets and pounds lifted during strength training.

Find a partner.

Pairing up can push you to do more than you would alone and make you more accountable. It doesn’t hurt if that buddy is in better shape than you are. A 2010 study in the Journal of Social Sciences found that when men and women biked with another rider who was more highly trained, they exercised harder even when instructed to keep a moderate pace. If a person trained with a cyclist below his or her fitness level, performance declined. If you don’t have a buddy available, try using some of the newer exercise machines that offer virtual training partners and other interactive features.

Listen to music.

Music makes exercise more fun and, like a training partner, it can distract you and reduce your perception of effort. But it also stimulates people’s innate tendency to move in time with sound, according to a 2010 article from the American Council on Exercise. To encourage yourself to work out longer, choose songs you really enjoy.

Exercise in the afternoon.

Joints and muscles loosen up during the course of a person’s waking hours, so people with arthritis or stiff joints might find it more comfortable to exercise later in the day. But try not to train within three hours of bedtime. Body temperature rises during exercise and can take several hours to drop, which could delay sleep. Of course, exercise at any time of day is better than no exercise, so you don’t have to change your workout timing if you’re a morning person. But do start with a good warm-up.

Mind your breathing.

For weight training, exhale during the resistance (“lifting”) phase of the exercise and inhale as you return to the starting position. Never hold your breath. For cardiovascular training, try to breathe from your belly or chest, and not while lifting your shoulders.

Mix it up.

Repetitive training can cause boredom and fatigue. If you are a member of a fitness club, use a different cardio machine on every visit, and change your weightlifting program every four weeks to work different muscle groups. If needed, consult a personal trainer.

Turn off late-night television.

Going to bed late makes it harder to get the eight hours of sleep at night that most people need. It also increases the risk of daytime drowsiness, which can get in the way of your commitment to exercise. If you’re running on limited sleep and start to feel extra fatigued during exercise, reduce the duration or intensity for that day to give your body a chance to recover.

Copyright 2013. Consumers Union of United States Inc.

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