Coach Tip Tuesday: Fatigue is Fatigue, But Not All Fatigue Counts as a Workout
It’s been another week, so that means that it is time for another Coach Tip Tuesday!
Spring has sprung! Even if your home region is still seeing some fluctuations in weather (just like my home region of Upstate New York is :) ), nicer weather is undoubtedly on its way for most of the Northern Hemisphere.
This time of year, many, many of the athletes who I work with end up doing projects around the house, including spring cleaning and landscaping. Many, many times, athletes end up doing these types of projects on their “rest” days in their training schedules, and often, they end up doing them on the weekends, which are typically the days when longer/key workouts need to be scheduled due to time availability.
So, as a result of this, the following has come up over the years: the athlete feels tired and struggles through workouts, even after a “rest” day, and/or the athlete tells me that their yard work counted in place of their scheduled workout. Right on schedule, I started hearing these things from the athletes I work over the course of the last 3-4 weeks. :)
Here’s the hard truth, my friends: work around the house, no matter how physical, doesn’t “count” as a workout (in terms of replacing something that was on your training schedule). And while this is definitely true, here is what is also true: work around the house DEFINITELY builds up fatigue and is TRUE work. As a result, doing these activities doesn’t qualify as a “rest” day either. So, what do we do when we are faced with this conundrum where it’s not a workout, but it’s not rest either?
Well, first of all, we acknowledge that fatigue is fatigue. As I often tell athletes: the body doesn’t know (or honestly, care) what stress is imposed on it. Whether it’s a bike ride, a landscaping project, a run, or a deep clean of your house, all the body knows is that it was asked to work hard, that stress was imposed on it, and that it is tired. So we need to accept this. This means that if you do a big, physical project on a day that is scheduled as a rest day in your training schedule that you will almost certainly not reap the intended benefit of that rest day, and you will likely start up the next week of workouts with a higher level of fatigue. This will be felt in your workouts and, depending on how much fatigue has been imposed, can impact performance as well. This is important to acknowledge because that acknowledgment/acceptance leads to what needs to happen next:
The day’s scheduled workout often needs to be modified, and sometimes needs to be skipped entirely. However, it’s important for you be honest with yourselves and understand that skipping a workout in favor of doing a house project doesn’t make that project count the same as a specific workout designed to help them meet your goals just because your body has been worked hard and you are tired. If this type of big project is completed on a rest day, that rest day often needs to be swapped to a different day, therefore resulting in a skipped workout on a different day. Rest days are SUPER important for the body to adapt to the stress that is imposed in training, and layering on a ton of extra physical stress on a rest day negates that intended effect.
All of this is pretty hard for many athletes to accept, so if you’re one of those, don’t feel like you are alone!! Athletes do not like the idea of “missing” workouts. Many of us (this includes me :) ) like to think that we can do it all. And while we can all certainly do A LOT, we cannot do it all. So it’s VERY OKAY (repeat that back to me: it’s VERY OKAY) if things around your home end up being a priority time-wise for you. And it’s VERY OKAY if workouts are occasionally missed, if rest days are moved, or if training schedules are modified due to this.
Training is a delicate balance of many factors, but the biggest ones in play are these two:
1) Ensuring that training/sport is incorporated into an athlete’s life in a way that brings joy to an athlete and
2) Closely monitoring load (volume and intensity) to prevent injury so that #1 can continuously happen.
As a coach, it’s my job to help athletes navigate situations exactly like what I’ve described to help them accomplish these goals, and any other goals that they set.
So, if you have a coach, talk to them when you have things like this going on!! If you aren’t coached: Be honest with yourself through this spring season (and any time you have a big, physical “something” pop up in your life). No matter what, know that it’s VERY OKAY to modify your training schedule so that you can feel GOOD and not overwhelmed or totally burnt out in all aspects of your life. :)
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.