The scene seems right. An up-tempo song blasts through the speakers around the room. All around you, people race on the treadmill and grunt as they lift weights. An upbeat personal trainer stands nearby, ready to assist at a moment’s notice. Something is not right, though. You’re partway through your workout, and you’ve hit a slump. Is it a crash in motivation? Are you low in energy? Maybe just distracted?
Mid-workout slumps happen to even the most committed exercisers. Learn how to avoid these feelings so you can push through and get the most of your workouts instead of heading to the locker room early.
Eat for Energy
A well-balanced diet is necessary for any healthy lifestyle, but it becomes increasingly important when you’re exercising. If you start to crash mid-workout, what you did or didn’t eat beforehand could be to blame. Proper planning of your meals and snacks will give your body steady fuel. On days that you plan a heavy workout, you might need to eat even more before you head to the gym.
Don’t Skimp on Carbs
Long distance athletes are known to “carb load” in the days leading up to a race, because the human body relies on carbohydrates for energy. In fact, carbs are your body’s preferred source of fuel, powering everything from your brain to your muscles. Most people fear carbs, but they’ve gotten a bad rap. Make sure you’re meeting your body’s needs for sustained energy all day whether you’re workout out or working at the office.
Iron is a trace mineral that helps blood carry oxygen to the muscles throughout the body, keeping them powered up during a workout. In general, an iron deficiency can also lead to sagging energy levels. Women are more likely to experience low iron levels, but if you suspect your body is low on iron, talk to your doctor. A simple blood test can determine if iron is an issue, and your doctor can help you get back on track. You’ll find iron in lean red meat, fortified cereals, and leafy greens, but steer clear of supplements (unless recommended by your doctor) because too much iron can be toxic.
Dehydration is another possible cause of “hitting the wall.” When you exercise, sweating cools your body down, but it can also be detrimental if you’re not replenishing the fluids you lose. That means drinking some water before you start your workout, taking a couple of sips of water every 15 to 20 minutes, and enjoying a tall glass of water once your exercise session is over. The key is to drink even before thirst sets in because by the time you recognize you’re thirsty, you’re already on your way to dehydration.
Be a Planner
Do you set your alarm for a 5 a.m. run only to snooze until your exercise slot has come and gone? Or do you come home at night, too exhausted to hit the gym? Try to schedule your workouts for the times of day that your energy is at its peak. Even if it’s a little less convenient, you’ll get a better workout and might be more likely to stick with your program.
Whether you’re skimping on sleep or you’re exercising too much, a lack of rest and recovery can zap your energy levels and hurt your progress, too. Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep each night, so reorganize your day and your time so that you can get as much shut-eye as possible each night. After all, who wants to exercise when they feel tired and run down?
Overtraining can also lead to increased fatigue during your workout. Sometimes, even the most experienced exercisers and athletes need a break (hence the “off season”). Learn to listen to your body. Often when you’re too tired to make it through your usual workout, your body just needs a break, after which it can come back even stronger.
Deal with Stress
Just as your mental to-do list can keep you awake at night, other life stressors can creep into your mind during a workout and distract you from the task at hand. Sometimes these thoughts are overwhelming, and the sheer thought of dealing with the issue can be exhausting. Other times, feeling too busy can cause you to stop your workout short because you want to work on something else other than fitness. While working out can help you alleviate stress, sometimes life hands you a little too much, which can result in fatigue, aches, pains and headaches. Instead of letting your stress prevent you from hitting the gym, think of your workout as a much-needed break. Use this small window of “me” time to mentally sort through any issues you’ve been dealing with lately. Or think of it as one small part of your day that isn’t filled with stress, work, and a never ending list of tasks. If necessary, plan some additional de-stressing tasks into your day. Just like you take time to exercise, take some time to relax, whether through meditation, a hot bath, or just reading a book.
Who hasn’t been bored to sleep one time or another? Boredom is exhausting! And that’s the last feeling you want to experience when you’re trying to exercise. Hate the treadmill? Don’t use it. Watching the clock when on the stationary bike? Hop off and find something fun. Whether you take your indoor workouts outside or try a new fitness class, variety will keep boredom at bay and help you get better results, too. Sometimes even working incorporating varying intervals during a single workout (instead of the same intensity, pace, speed or incline) can really shake things up and keep you energized and interested.
Overall, the occasional energy slump can usually be fixed by trying some of the tasks above. Sometimes it’s a combination of lifestyle changes that works best. If you feel run down all the time or exercise results in major fatigue for you, make an appointment to see your health care provider to find out why.