August 2, 2010

Fatigue Management 101: The Basics


Currently, Mondays for me are a bit of a blur and management of my attention is priority numero uno around these parts. I walked into the office this morning and asked my boss if he knew where my weekend went, because as far as I could tell, I had left the office on Friday & just arrived after a long training session, on Monday morning. I am 3 weeks into the biggest training phase in preparation for the Hawaii trip. Added to this I had a late night on Thursday, which was probably the most stupid thing in the world.

Essentially, as of Friday afternoon I was in survival mode. I HAD to get the work done on the weekend, so I had to push everything else aside and compromise on normal life for 2 days. I slept and ate my way through to Monday morning along with 4 sessions of training in the middle. It was exhausting but it made me remember some of the little things which make serious fatigue manageable while “in the moment” so to speak. I thought I could share them with you today.



When you are tired, there is very little which perks you up like remembering why you are hacking away at 2am in the office or 4 hours into a 7 (yes, seven) hour ride for the 4th hour into a headwind now that the wind has swung 180 degrees. The reasons for being there may seem very thin in that moment and urge to give up will most likely be greater than the urge to keep going. In these moments its worth remembering why you are out there, what you are aiming towards and put that picture in your mind.

Bite sized chunks

I learnt this trick while swimming. We would often have to swim the following kinds of sets when I was younger:

8 x (10 x 50m) freestyle descending through 4 sets, so leaving every 50sec, then 45sec, then 40sec, then 35sec.

100/200/300/400/500/600/500/400/300/200/100 pyramid of freestyle.

Watching the black line for that long leads to serious motivational issues to get going. I would often break it down into small sets, break the 500’s up into 100’s breathing either way, alternate kicking off tumble turns, etc. Basically I became the master at ignoring the volume and being stuck in the bike sized chunk of work I had to do at that moment. By breaking it up into pieces that are easily manageable and putting pieces together you break down the idea that its too much work to do.


When you don’t have to stand, sit. If you don’t have to be sitting, lie down. If you have 30min to spare, spend it with your eyes closed, even if you arent sleep.

You`ll be amazed how you can recover by just slowing your body rhythms down for a few minutes. Lie there and think of only empty, blank spaces. Don’t let anything else enter your mind.

Food & Hydration

Emotional eaters are always tired. When you are emotional, tired and hungry, you generally reach for the worst food. It takes oodles of willpower to not eat rubbish when I get there, but I immediately feel the difference once I’ve eaten something real and healthy.

Watch the booze too. Stick to realbeer, properly made wine and don’t be scared of a rehydate or two. The essential vitamins and minerals will perk you up. Avoid the tequila.

Mental Junkfood

This relates to the following:

Reading useless articles all day (no articles on this site are ever useless obviously so send all your mates here to read), Twitter, Facebook, Email, Blackberry Messenger, wasting time shopping for 3 hours when 30min will do just fine. I will stick my hand up and say hell yes, I use my phone ALOT for many of these things. I have to be constantly aware of these things so I have a few rules:

– RSS reader over morning coffee.
– Blog Post just after lunch (time I am normally full and slow working anyway)
– Turn the Blackberry to “phone calls only” during work hours. This way I check it about once an hour only.
– Twitter was the best as I created lists for the people I follow so I can look for work, social or sporting info specifically in a certain column. It cut my twitter time down immensely during the day.
– Shop twice a week, not every day. Plan meals, buy food you know you`ll eat + some fun stuff.

Although I have to admit, this weekend saw almost no twitter, no facebook, no shopping, no reading albeit much consumption of healthy food.

Last but not least is the following…

Your Lying Mind:

You think you are tired, beyond belief, but you can still go out and do it. If the reasons are right and the motivation is there, the body stores enough energy for you to achieve that. Yesterday I was shattered after my morning ride. Saturday was the hardest ride in memory for me, 7 hours into the headwind in the cold over 4 passes. 30min run in there as well. Then Sunday morning I spent 4 hours riding around Contermanskloof until I couldn’t pedal anymore. I was a broken man.

Once I found the motivation (reason: no exuses in Hawaii) I was out the door in the afternoon for an incredible run, all 60min of it I felt tired, but just focused on running the next 10 minutes feeling light. I managed to run further than I have in 60min ever. It proved to myself that I am tired, but that means nothing. Someone special to me once said that when you are at your weakest you are also at your strongest. Yesterday I fully comprehended that statement in its most core sense.

That, and the 2 Americano’s I had before heading out the door.

Have a great week out there. I have the last monster one this week, capped off with 3 x 150km rides over the weekend (Monday is a public holiday next week) with 3 x 40min runs each day. It is going to be so good.

2 Comments on “Fatigue Management 101: The Basics

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Raoul de Jongh, Nic Muhl. Nic Muhl said: RT @raouldejongh: Fatigue Management for athletes. #sport #fatigue #triathlon #cycling […]

August 2, 2010 at 9:35 pm

Great post – I like how you said at your weakest you are at your strongest. So much of this is mental.


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