When to push through the fatigue and whe ...

When to push through the fatigue and when to rest?

Jan 26, 2022

We all know the feeling of tiredness and fatigue, the feeling when we “don’t feel like it”, when we would rather stay in our comfort zone and do pleasant things.

Oftentimes, the tiredness and fatigue that we feel are a “disguise”: a product of Resistance, of Comfort zone and Counterforces that want to keep us safe, in the comfort zone and prevent us from growing.

But sometimes, however, the feeling of fatigue is real and our body really needs rest: we have to take a step back, take it easy, and rest.

So the question becomes: how do you tell the difference between real fatigue and what I call “a disguise”: Resistance, Comfort zone and Counterforces masking themselves as fatigue?

In this article, I will present the difference between real fatigue and “disguise”, how to recognize it and how to act on it.

My dilemma on those hard days

One of the aspects of my burnout condition that I haven’t yet learned to master, is when to push through the fatigue, malaise and tiredness, and when to take a step back, take it easy and allow my body to rest.

Although there are far fewer of them than there used to be, I still have random malaise that I don’t know the exact cause of. On those hard days, I start to wonder what am I doing wrong, if there is something wrong with me, and why can’t I be normal and do the things I want to do.

My last malaise

My last random malaise came last Tuesday: it was the malaise that sometimes really gets to me when I’m not mentally and emotionally strong enough…

For the second day in a row, I woke up weak: I could barely get out of bed, I had heavy legs and a feeling of discomfort in my stomach and digestion. I couldn’t figure out why I felt so badly: it wasn’t that I had been physically very active, or had been exposed to a lot of stress, had dealt with emotional things, or had worked too much.

Causes of malaise

  1. Accumulated stress

Maybe I had put too much pressure on my body the week before. Although I felt rested, maybe the 3 challenging workouts, 2 long car trips, 2 nights with less than 5 hours of sleep and a day of skiing might have been too much for my body. Maybe I had accumulated too much stress and on Tuesday this accumulated stress was coming out and causing me symptoms of malaise, weakness and fatigue.

  1. Food intolerances

I also suspected I had eaten something that didn’t suit my body. I have a lot of food intolerances: intolerance to gluten, lactose, eggs, chocolate/cocoa (damn it!), corn, celery and salicylates. Salicylate intolerance is the biggest pain in the ass, since salicylic acid, an acid produced by plants as a defense mechanism against predators and parasites, is hidden in most fruits and vegetables, so sometimes I inadvertently eat something that contains salicylic acid, which then causes me problems and symptoms of malaise (weakness, fatigue and symptoms of burnout).

Another problem with food intolerances is that negative symptoms can be delayed for up to 3 days, which makes it difficult to identify the root causes of malaise and fix it.

  1. Too much caffeine

I probably also consumed too much caffeine, as I drank a pre-workout before each workout last week. I’m already very sensitive to caffeine, and maybe the synthetic form of caffeine in pre-workout products — the preparations that are taken before training to increase strength, physical capabilities and reduce fatigue — exhausts me even more and leaves me empty …

Push through or rest?

The dilemma on these difficult days when my overall well-being is on the line, is whether to push through the fatigue and overcome the discomfort, or to take a step back, calm down and give my body some rest.

This is one of the dilemmas of my burnout condition that I am still figuring out and I haven’t yet found the answers to, since in some cases the first strategy works, and then in others circumstances the latter.

  1. Mental Override

Sometimes when I feel like I’m on the line, I use Aubrey Marcus’ strategy called “Mental Override”: I kick myself in the ass, I override and silence my feelings, emotions and voices that tell me that I’m tired, I go to the gym, release accumulated tension and negative emotions, do a good workout and come back like brand new.

But it has also happened that this strategy turned against me and had a counter-effect: instead of feeling better, I felt even worse than before.

  1. Rest

So when I feel that the symptoms and feelings of fatigue are real, I have to take a step back and give my body rest — whether I want to or not.

Well on Tuesday, my body was whispering that it needed rest and not the extra — albeit good, hormetic — stress that working out represents. It really hurt because I didn’t want to put up with the fact that I “had to” rest: I wanted to do a good workout, I wanted the satisfaction, well-being and contentment that endorphins would bring after a workout.

But I felt I had to take time off: I gave up on training and lied down.

How to distinguish between real fatigue and “disguise”?

When to push through the fatigue and when to rest is a difficult thing to master. But we can use several tools to learn the difference between the two and act in the right way.

  1. Measurable data and objective well-being

We can use objective and measurable data to determine whether or not we are really tired and fatigued or not. We can use our perceived quality of sleep, perceived feeling of being rested in the first hour after waking up, heart rate variability (HRV), resting heart rate (RHR) upon waking, blood sugar in the morning, body weight, etc.

We can get all of this data using tracking devices. Different smart watches, fitness and sleep trackers measure all this body data and then connect them into a whole and based on that they advise us on how to behave and act.

My tracking device of choice is called WHOOP. I have been using it for quite some time now. WHOOP is one of the best trackers outhere: it offers accurate monitoring of sleep and all sleep cycles, measurement of heart rate variability (HRV), resting heart rate (HRH) upon waking, respiratory rate during sleep, blood oxygen levels and body temperature upon waking.

Compared to other watches and smart trackers, WHOOP is very comfortable to wear and very affordable: you can try it for as little as $30 a month. You can also try it for a month free of charge: click on the link below for a 1 month free trial.

Get WHOOP and your first free month

  1. Subjective well-being

When determining whether it is real fatigue or disguise, we can also use subjective data: this is our motivation and enthusiasm in the morning upon waking up and during the day, general well-being during the day, the feeling of lightness, positivity and state of our mental health.

But we can also help ourselves with the feelings and signals that our body sends us — these are in the end, in my opinion, the most important.

  1. Learn to listen to the body’s signal and whispers

As I have been struggling with fatigue for the last couple of years, I have had to learn to listen to my body’s signals and what it’s trying to tell me and learn to distiguish between real fatigue and “disguise”.

Sometimes fatigue can disguise itself as Resistance and it tries to prevent us from growing. “Resistance” (a concept by author Steven Pressfield) knows that by working out and doing unpleasant things we invest in ourselves, we strengthen our bodies and become stronger — and Resistance tries to prevent this by keeping us in our comfort zone where nothing bad can happen to us.

If we feel that the fatigue we’re experiencing is a “disguise”, it would be better to fight the forces that are working against us, push through and overcome the feelings of resistance.

But then other times it is truly fatigue that is whispering and trying to get your attention with negative symptoms of malaise: in such cases it is better to take a step back. take it easy, rest and take care of our body.

Interestingly, it’s uncomfortable in both cases. In my case, I often need to do exactly what I’m resisting: when I think that I “can’t” and that I need to rest, I should push through the Resistance. And when I’m tired and I feel pressure and the need to push through, I should take a step back and rest.

Human nature is so strange…

It’s difficult because I can’t exactly tell you how to recognize and differentiate between real fatigue and disguise, because there’s no rule: there’s no “one fits all approach”, it can vary from individual to individual, from time to time, situation to situation, case to case.

I think the right answer is to take into account the measurable data and subjective well-being and to listen to the whispers of our body: the body always wants to tell us something and it signals us what it needs — but often we don’t know how to read and understand these signals.

How did my story end? On Tuesday I took a step back and took it a bit easier: instead of working out, I lied down a little, then ate lunch, took a nap and went for a long walk in nature to clear my mind and process the things that were bothering me. That night I went to bed earlier, got a good night’s sleep and woke up on Wednesday fresh, rested and feeling much better. Subjective well-being was also confirmed by Whoop, which recorded high recovery, high heart variability (HRV), and low resting heart rate (RHR) which are indicators that my body was rested and recovered.

My measurements last week in the Whoop app

It’s not easy to know the right answer, so I would encourage you to experiment.

We can learn to feel and recognize our feelings and differentiate between them. But it takes time and practice. With experimentation and listening to our body’s signal, overtime we start to learn to distinguish between the two — between real fatigue and disguise. When you become more attuned to your body and feelings, you can almost feel the difference between real fatigue and disguise and know the right answer.

Becoming in tune with our body, emotions and signals is in my opinion one of the answers to a happy and successful life.

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