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December 2018

Plans, Routine and Mental Fatigue

Let’s be completely honest here – very few people have the time to dedicate their lives to their training, do we? If you are not in work or needed at home by the family, there is always a list of jobs needing doing by everyone at some point. Juggling these can be hard enough on its own let alone fitting in some quality training. To fit all this in we usually create a plan, and try our best to keep to it, but in creating a plan and following it are we only creating new issues? Mental fatigue can creep up on us very quickly and can all but wipe out motivation to train and can have a huge detrimental effect on your performance overall. 


What is mental fatigue?

Mental fatigue is a decrease in maximal cognitive performance resulting from prolonged periods of cognitive activity. Aka – your brain is tired and stuck in a rut! 

What are the symptoms of mental fatigue?

·       chronic tiredness or sleepiness

·       headache

·       dizziness

·       sore or aching muscles

·       muscle weakness

·       slowed reflexes and responses

·       moodiness, such as irritability

·       impaired hand-to-eye coordination

·       appetite loss

·       short-term memory problems

·       poor concentration

·       reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

·       low motivation.

It’s not hard to see how that even just one of the above would have a detrimental effect on your training. So, when is it good to step away from the plan or routine and mix things up a little? Well all good coaching plans or routines should have an element of flexibility in them, yes there is a lot to be said for “going big or going home” as the age old saying goes, but it’s about recognising a simple “cannot be bothered” feeling to genuine mental fatigue and adapting your training to this. 

Now I am a big fan of listening to your body, you can push as hard as you like but if your muscles are tired and more, so your mind is tired you are not going to see any gains. Taking an impromptu day out from training can help massively, more so if it hasn’t been planned. Do something different with your time be it sat watching a film or TV show you been meaning to watch or even going for a swim as opposed to a 40-mile interval session, the key is to make it as different and as relaxing as possible, but not for too long a prolonged period! Detraining can begin to take place in as little as 72 hours albeit very small amount, but if you are already struggling mentally with the sport any loss could exasperate this! 

If you are looking to take a few days away from the usual routine, why not try doing some strength training? Or cross sport? If I am not feeling the love for an all-out road session, I simply take out the MTB and take a leisurely pace round some local trails, ironically you will probably still get the same training effect if you do this as the bike is heavier and the effort needed to keep the heavier bike moving round uneven ground can be just as much as an interval session, but as you are doing it at your own pace and taking in some local sights its much less mentally demanding. 

Chris’s Top Tips for Combating Mental Fatigue:

·       Fun – build fun into your routine

·       Flexibility – be flexible in your approach to training, then you will not stress about things that cannot be done if plans change.

·       Feed your brain – your brain powers everything, feed it well and it will repay you!

·       Take time out – remember all work and no play is not good for you, your mind or those around you!

Chris Evans – Cycling Guru For Bike Bible