Make sure you stretch after you workout. Gotta make sure that LACTIC ACID doesn’t build up.
Oh you’re sore? Probably from all that LACTIC ACID sitting in your system.
Yes sir you done got tired cause of all that LACTIC ACID building up in your muscles.
Yeah lactic acid actually does none of those things. When people start telling me this as they explain their workout philosophy and programming, I start tuning them out and ignoring everything they say afterwards. Yes, you are that back-asswards and this is basically the exercise worlds equivalent of saying the sun revolves around a flat Earth. OFFENSIVE.
Lets pick the most notorious of those three questions above: what DOES cause fatigue, then?
Fatigue is “the inability of the contracting muscles to maintain the desired force.” Physiologists in the more than 100 years ago studied exhaustion by cutting off the hind legs of frogs and electrically stimulating the muscles in vitro until they could not contract anymore resulting in a bath of lactic acid. That is where the lactic acid-causes-fatigue idea came from, but lactic acid actually fuels muscular contraction rather than inhibiting it when in vivo. Nevertheless, the view of fatigue as a purely mechanical breakdown has persisted: you max out your ability to pump oxygen, the acidity of your blood creeps up, and the neuromuscular signaling between your brain and your muscles gets weaker: you hit a limit.
But this limit is probably never truly reached—that fatigue is simply a balance between effort and motivation, and that the decision to stop is a conscious choice rather than a mechanical failure. Considerations like heat, hydration, and muscle conditioning, can make you fatigue faster and things like motivation and desire make you push further. The mechanical reasons for fatigue don’t force you to slow down, but they cause you to want to slow down.
In 1991, Joyner published a paper in which he calculated the fastest possible marathon time: 1:57:58, almost nine minutes faster than the world record at the time. This discrepancy suggested, that “our level of knowledge about the determinants of human performance is inadequate.” At the Berlin Marathon, a thirty-year-old Kenyan man named Dennis Kimetto, a former subsistence farmer who started competing internationally just three years ago, set a new world record, completing the race in a time of 2:02:57. Were still not even there yet.
So what are we missing and how does this help us get more out of our time spent at the gym? This means that we have an additional component to how we think about pushing ourselves when we exercise the mental aspect. When you’re pushing yourself hard, I would challenge YOU to question whether or not the discomfort you feel from exercise is really all you can give. Additionally, we can use some techniques to get a little more out of our training each day.
The way we talk about how hard an exercise seems to someone is based on its RPE rating, or Rating of Perceived Exertion: higher ratings = harder exercise.
1. Eating/Drinking Sweet Things Before and During Your Workout can help you exercise harder for longer. You dont have to swallow just rinse according to Backhouse and colleagues. People who consume carbohydrate during exercise after about an hour have much lower RPEs than those who dont. Basically, it SEEMS less difficult, even if you’re resistance training. Additionally, Winnick and colleagues suggested that consuming carbs (not a no-calorie substitute) can improve your performance when you’re tired.
2. Listening to Music During Your Workout. As I’ve previously discussed, music is a fantastic way to improve your exercise performance, especially if it has a high BPM. It helps me get into the gym because I love to listen to my music making my resistance to working out lower.
3. Caffeine. This is one of the reasons why pre-workout supplements are so popular most of them have stimulants in them such as caffeine. It has a tendency to lower RPE, especially for endurance training. Is taking too much caffeine dangerous? Most probably. But is not exercising of the course of your life dangerous? Much more probably. If giving you a little kick in the pants is the difference between you having the energy to bust your butt and get results and sit on your butt, then this might be the lesser of two evils.
4. Changing Your Mindset: How people interpret some of the physical sensations of exertion or fatigue, such as buildup of lactic acid in muscle or increases in body temperature, can influence whether of not the person comes back to exercise on a consistent basis. Some people tend to read such physical cues as a sign of a good workout or progress, whereas many sedentary people just find them uncomfortable or painful. Try to be in the prior group. Try to enjoy what you’re doing do not fight it. Look for a way to make it manageable. I am not going to lie I have learned how to actually like being sore. I have learned how to enjoy breathing heavy when I am exercising and to enjoy my muscles burning. Its never comfortable, but I have learned to LIKE being Uncomfortable. Kind of like learning to like bitter or sour foods when you are only used to sweet things. Like beer.
Try one of those 4 tips. Or try them all at once. I am definitely a fan of numbers 2 and 4, but you have to find your own combination. Your health is not an option it has to be an eventuality, so lets figure out a way to make it happen.
Craig is the founder of LifeGuider, he is dedicated to improving not only himself but also others in being more physically fit and mentally capable of handling life’s challenges. He is not your regular life coach, no fancy clothes or fast cars, just a regular “Ole Joe” who has experienced the ups and downs of life like everyone else.
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