By Wayne Goldsmith
PHOENIX, May 2. HOW fatigued is fatigued? How do you know how much training to do? How do you know when your body and mind are tired and need time to rest and recover?
Feeling fatigued after training is normal…but excessive and constant fatigue is not.
When the body is constantly fatigued it is more susceptible to illness and injury. In a fatigued state, the body’s defense mechanism – the immune system – is likely to break down, leaving the swimmer vulnerable to coughs, colds, bacterial infections, gastrointestinal infections and so on.
The good news is that there are several “fatigue factors” which, if monitored regularly, can help you manage your fatigue level and keep you healthy and training optimally.
Fatigue factors are simple measures that indicate how your body (and mind) are adapting to the stresses and strains of training.
Fatigue factors include:
Sleep – What is your quality of sleep? Do you fall asleep easily and wake feeling refreshed, or do you toss and turn and wake feeling even more tired than the day before? Swimmers training hard sleep well. Swimmers who are in a state of excessive fatigue will often complain that they have difficulty falling and staying asleep.
Muscle Soreness – Do your muscles feel tired after training or are they sore and aching for two or three days after a hard session? It is normal for muscles to be tired – that’s what training is all about. What is not normal is for muscles to be sore, aching and tight for more than 24 hours.
Resting Heart Rate – As you get fitter, your resting (morning/waking) heart rate gets lower. If your heart rate is elevated by 10 – 15 beats per minute for two to three consecutive days, it may be a sign your body is not adapting to training (and life stresses).
Energy – Fit people are high-energy people. Overtrained people feel slow, flat and lethargic and lacking in energy.
Weight Loss – Fit, healthy people tend to keep an energy balance where weight is neither gained or lost. In an overtrained, fatigued state, body weight can fluctuate by 2-3 pounds (or more) in a 24 hour period.
Recovery Techniques – There are several things you can do to help yourself deal with fatigue including eating well, rehydrating, getting plenty of quality sleep, having a massage, doing some non weight-bearing cross training (e.g. mountain biking).
“Feel” in the Water – Tired swimmers will often say “I have no feel” or “I can’t feel my stroke”. This lack of “feel” is related to neural (nervous system) fatigue and it is a good indicator of overtraining and excessive fatigue.
Stress – Swimmers are not just swimmers…..they are people who swim. And as people they are subject to all the stresses and strains of life – family, study, relationships, money, work, etc. There is a strong relationship between life stress and fatigue levels.
These fatigue factors are relatively simple to measure and can be excellent indicators of your level of fatigue.
Try a simple self-monitoring experiment and complete the FATIGUE FIGHTER index.
Fatigue Fighter Index Score sheet – FFISS
Fatigue Indicator Score Range Your score
Sleep Range is 1 – 5. Score 1 for a poor quality of sleep and 5 for a wonderful, restful 8-10 hours of sleep.
Muscle Soreness Range is 1 – 5. Score 1 for very sore, tired, aching muscles and 5 for relatively little muscle soreness.
Resting Heart Rate If your resting heart rate is elevated by more than 15 beats per minute, add 1; if elevated by 11-15 add 2; if elevated by 6-10 add 3; if elevated by 5 beats per minute add 4; and if steady on your normal resting heart rate, add 5.
Energy Range is 1 – 5. Score 1 if you feel tired, slow and low on energy and 5 if you feel great and energized.
Weight loss If you have lost 3 pounds or more in the last 24 hours score one point. If you have lost 2 pounds score three. If you have lost 1 pound or less score five.
Recovery techniques Add 1 if you have a regular massage. Add another 1 if you take a yoga class each week. Add another 2 if you consistently rehydrate and refuel during and after training.
“Feel” in the Water Range is 1 – 5. Score 1 if you have no feel and your swim stroke feels awkward and lacking power. Score 5 if your stroke is long and strong and powerful.
Stress Range is 1-5. Score 1 if you are stressed to breaking point. Score 5 if you have little or no stress.
YOUR FATIGUE INDEX TOTAL:
Score Fatigue Rating*
39 – 32. Not too fatigued. Keep on training and working hard.
31 – 23. A little fatigued. Continue training but work hard on your recovery techniques like massage, rehydration, refueling and get some more rest (especially sleep).
22 – 15. You are showing real signs of fatigue. Decrease your training intensity and work harder on your recovery. If you need to, take a session off and rest.
14 – 8. Time to rest, recover and regenerate. Take a couple of days off and do something you love to do: read, walk, ride your bike, spend time with friends and family, go to the movies.
Relax, unwind and complete this Fatigue Index again in two days. If your score has moved up above 23 it is probably safe to go back into the water. If your score has not improved significantly, go and see your doctor.
*This Fatigue Index is not a definitive indicator of overtraining. It is a simple tool to make you aware of the physical, mental, technical and emotional factors that are involved in the fatigue process. If you find your score is regularly less than 23, you must seek medical advice and have a serious look at your training and recovery program.