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How to manage CNS fatigue when training hard

Cv215

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This is a good article and a topic that i guarantee goes overlooked. Many of us just continue to train hard week after week without realizing we're slowly accumulating more and more fatigue, and ignoring the symptoms. I know this for fact after seeing how many people were so suprised how they maintained or gained strength after the covid shutdown and not training for a month or two.

How To Manage CNS Fatigue When Training Hard
Posted on Feb 21, 2018 by Clint Hartley (Hybrid performance method)

Have you ever followed a heavy strength program, training consistently, pushing your numbers up as prescribed, feeling gangster af. Then, as de-load week approaches, a change in mood starts to creep in. You realise little things are starting to annoy you that didn’t before, you’re not sleeping the best, all you want to eat is junk food, and you don’t know why.
Assuming you have increased your training intensity each week, you can expect some behavioural and emotional changes (listed above) as you start to approach Central Nervous System (CNS) Fatigue or Overtraining Syndrome. Your CNS is the battery that runs your meat vehicle. Once it’s empty, you ain’t lifting anything heavy for a few days, you turn the key and nothing happens. I’m here to let you know how I manage the symptoms of this for both myself, and my clients.
I should also mention that CNS fatigue only comes on if you are training hard, heavy, and trying to push more volume each week on heavy compound exercises, for example: Deadlifts; and Squats.
In contrast someone doing casual body building with sets of 10-15 reps, using mostly isolated exercises, missing days here and there and not following a plan, then odds are you haven’t (and won’t) experience CNS fatigue at all and can train almost indefinitely without a de-load.
I compare the symptoms of nervous system fatigue to the way I feel when I have been burning the candle at both ends for too long in both my personal and work life. I get super run down and feel like I’m about to get sick. If I don’t look after myself during this time I usually do get sick. Keep in mind this period usually only lasts 3-4 days (at its worst) before it starts to ease.

Symptoms of CNS fatigue are:
  • Loss of appetite
  • Interrupted sleep patterns and a difficulty getting to sleep;
  • Increased cravings for comfort foods;
  • Irritability/ emotional; and
  • Weakened immune system.
If you are paying attention, you can detect and manage the signs of fatigue long before your system crashes. This break is usually planned in advance in a strength program as your de-load week (a period of lighter training focusing on CNS and joint recovery). It helps to be aware of these symptoms so you can also manage your attitude during this time so you don’t ‘fly off’ the handle in front of your workmates when your local coffee guy hands you a flat white, instead of the cappuccino you ordered.
If you are training hard enough, you won’t be able to escape these symptoms. You can certainly minimise their effects by making a plan to manage them.
Below is a list of fatigue symptoms and my management guide.
Loss of appetite
Anyone that knows me, knows that I barely EVER miss a meal, but when I do, it’s almost always when I’m burnt-out from heavy training. If I allow myself to skip meals during this time, I can almost count the days until I get sick with whatever cold and flu is going around at the time. So to keep meals coming in, liquid meals become my best friend.
It’s much easier to drink a few smoothies than it is to chew down meat and vegetables when you’re not feeling your best. These are usually highly nutritious, with higher calories, using ingredients such as protein powder, nuts, raw veggies, coconut milk, fruit etc.
Interrupted Sleep
I really try and hammer the sleep strategies that we have spoken about, in other Hybrid articles, during this time. Things like: no screens an hour before bed; turning your room into a batcave (darkest room possible); higher carb meals before bed; lowering caffeine throughout the day; and practice 10 minutes of meditation in the evening will help bring your body into a better rest and recovery state.
If I am really trashed I will even book a massage that week to iron out any muscle soreness, relaxing me further and helping me get a much better sleep. I always sleep great the night after a massage. Coincidence? I don’t think so! I’m usually so relaxed that it’s much easier for me to float into a deep sleep.
Increased Cravings
I find the craving severity during this time is mostly influenced by the prior two points. If you are experiencing terrible sleep, skipping meals and burnt out from a lot of training, I guarantee the first thing you will feel like when you want to eat is ALL THE BURGERS AND CHOCOLATE.
Sometimes despite managing your sleep strategies, you might still sleep like garbage and still yearn for burgers and chocolate the next day. On days like this, if I’m not trying to put on weight, I will reach for a diet coke to try and ease the cravings or, if I’m not worried about a little fat gain, I’ll just have that damn burger and be happy.
Just be sure it doesn’t become a junk food party that includes a burger, a pizza, lollies, crisps, chocolate, soft drink, ice cream and your dignity, all in one sitting.
Irritability
I believe that simply being aware that hard training can change your mood is enough to manage it. For example, its common to lose grip of your emotions during this time and become short tempered or, on the other side of the spectrum, cry at the drop of a hat. I know I can personally get crabby as I get closer to the de-load week. That’s enough for me to question my reaction to things if I feel myself getting worked up over something.
Once again, this is something that is fuelled by the prior points. The more you are able to minimise them, the less severe your irritability. On the flip side, if you aren’t looking after your other recovery points and your sleep is off, you’re eating way less real food, by way of consuming more junk food, then you’ll be super irritated and no one will be able to stand being around you!
Weakened Immune System
CNS Fatigue can suppress the immune system when you are really run down. That means you’re more susceptible to catching many of the illnesses or viruses that are going around, E.g. common cold, gastro bugs, etc. I went to a seminar presented by Ed Coan, arguably the best power lifter of all time, and he talked about constantly being congested and having a runny nose due to hard and heavy weight training effecting his immune system.
During this vulnerable time, simple stuff your grandma taught you during your childhood will go a long way to maintaining good health. Rug up if cold, wash your hands before eating, eat A LOT of nutritious food and try to minimise contact with anyone who is getting sick.

So, there you have my guide to managing the symptoms of CNS Fatigue or Overtraining Syndrome. Remember, this is a normal part of heavy training and it can be confronting if you’ve never had too deal with it before. Hopefully, this gives you all the tools you need to get through your next hard training block without getting sick or your partner/friends disowning you.
 

maldorf

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I used to have big problems with it, getting overtrained overall. There were times where I never missed a workout and yet I was losing strength in big lifts week to week.

Periodization is needed. You can't go " balls to the wall" every week perpetually, even when you are young. When i was young i thought i could.
 

Cv215

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.... There wasn't a single part that actually talked about the nervous system

Why do you have to be so fucking negative? Clearly the article was in regards to pointing out the signs of burnout. This is stuff that is overlooked by alot of people and not given enough attention.
 

IronLion2

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Why do you have to be so fucking negative? Clearly the article was in regards to pointing out the signs of burnout. This is stuff that is overlooked by alot of people and not given enough attention.

Cool click bait
 

Cv215

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Cool click bait
That doesn't even make sense..
No, an example of click bait would be,

"IronLion2's grandma found to be one of the original descendants of the blue fugates of Kentucky. These pictures show another very strange feature never before seen by doctors."

What i posted was simply the title of the article. At least I'm trying to be somewhat constructive. You cant deny its an important topic that often goes overlooked because most bodybuilders don't incorporate deloads. A lot of guys will just keep training and training, even after they start going backwards, and then train some more while not paying attention to any of the signs, and then wonder why they don't progress.

Even if the article is not that great but it still starts even a small discussion on the matter, or at the very least puts the idea into peoples heads then its a win. Plus, its a change from the constant "should i take this or that" posts.
 

m314

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I've had problems with this in the past too. What helps me is keeping stimulant use to a minimum, doing low intensity cardio instead of high intensity, and taking deload weeks as needed. I don't schedule deload weeks; I just know when it's time. I also used to train hard 6 days a week and sometimes lift on the rest day. Now I focus on putting everything I have into my workouts on Monday through Friday and take weekends off. Saturdays can be "active rest" days where I'm walking around and doing things, but Sundays are reserved for maximum laziness.
 

IronLion2

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That doesn't even make sense..
No, an example of click bait would be,

"IronLion2's grandma found to be one of the original descendants of the blue fugates of Kentucky. These pictures show another very strange feature never before seen by doctors."

What i posted was simply the title of the article. At least I'm trying to be somewhat constructive. You cant deny its an important topic that often goes overlooked because most bodybuilders don't incorporate deloads. A lot of guys will just keep training and training, even after they start going backwards, and then train some more while not paying attention to any of the signs, and then wonder why they don't progress.

Even if the article is not that great but it still starts even a small discussion on the matter, or at the very least puts the idea into peoples heads then its a win. Plus, its a change from the constant "should i take this or that" posts.

Click bait is when they build articles based on key word searches rather than creating content based on value, they give you what you want to hear with direct take away rather than actually teach you what is you need to know. This article doesnt say anything about sympathetic nervous system v parasympathetic, stimulating the autonomic system to recover, the key role of glucocorticoids/mineralocorticoids/adrenal hormones, the difference between training on edge vs not, what percentage of intensity actually stimulates the sympathetic system on, etc etc etc.
 

FrancisK

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IronLion is a total dick haha but he’s also usually right about shit when he’s being a dick. It’s a subject I’m interested in and that article doesn’t provide any real info regarding it, he’s just talking about being tired and burned out....total common sense stuff no actual scientific data.
 

IronLion2

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IronLion is a total dick haha but he’s also usually right about shit when he’s being a dick. It’s a subject I’m interested in and that article doesn’t provide any real info regarding it, he’s just talking about being tired and burned out....total common sense stuff no actual scientific data.

Literally any YouTube video of an A&P lecture on the CNS will yield a decent amount of practical information for any lifter. Long story short fight/flight vs feed/fuck, if you're trying to deload the CNS live in the ANS.
 

Cv215

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IronLion is a total dick haha but he’s also usually right about shit when he’s being a dick. It’s a subject I’m interested in and that article doesn’t provide any real info regarding it, he’s just talking about being tired and burned out....total common sense stuff no actual scientific data.

Yah i guess the title of the article isn't appropriate, because you're right, they don't mention anything to do with actually managing fatigue. Trust me ive seen worst posts on here guys.

Yall can tear apart the article but your still missing the point behind why i posted it. The objective of my thread was to discuss recovery, not to pick apart an article because of its title.Its just a means of reminding people what to look out for, because while the symptoms do sound kind of common sense, i guarantee people will overlook them regardless. I just dont think a lot of guys have a good sense for when they need more rest. You can feel relatively good and still be training hard, meanwhile you have a lot of fatigue that needs to be released and youre just slowly adding on to that more and more.

I cant tell you how many times ive seen guys on forums say theyve gotten sick and after a week of rest were suprised by how strong they were when they came back. Chances are they needed that rest a while ago. "Most" people just arent that good at assessing their recovery levels.

Ironlion is a smart dude. Ive seen him post on a few different forums for quite a few years now. Hes probably one of the most knowledgeable here, however hes become a bit arrogant.
 

kingpeon

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I know for many here Phil Hernon's name is Mud. Having said this, he has some insight regarding over-training, which is basically taxing the CNS to the point where unpleasant symptoms begin to manifest.

For what it's worth

 

Cv215

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I know for many here Phil Hernon's name is Mud. Having said this, he has some insight regarding over-training, which is basically taxing the CNS to the point where unpleasant symptoms begin to manifest.

For what it's worth


Thanks for the contribution. Like he said, its easier than you think to get into a state of over-training, and a lot of guys dont realize they're there. My favorite part of this life style is simply lifting heavy weights. I wish i could go in there every single day and do it, and for a while i tried and i started wondering why i would frequently have days where i was just so weak. Even when i thought i was getting enough recovery i wasnt.

I do a lot of powetlifting style training because i want to get strong on the big three, but i also love bodybuilding so much so i find myself trying to cram all these other excercises on top of my heavy training and it just doesn't work. I'm starting to understand now why they only say to do the accessories that you absolutely need, because everything else just starts taking away from your recovery of the main lifts. A concept ive seriously been struggling with.

I can bench heavy each week for a few weeks before i start stalling. If i have a heavy squat workout i basically need two weeks before i can squat heavy again otherwise I'm just no good and that frustrates the hell out of me. Ive been training for 20 years and im still really trying to figure this shit out..
 

kingpeon

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I remember an interview Tom Platz gave where he admitted that when he trained thighs, he trained so hard and to the point of complete exhaustion that it literally took him two weeks to fully recover!

Hard to believe, but if you've seen how he trains others it doesn't surprise me. I could only imagine how fried his CNS must have been from those marathon squat workouts.
 

thethinker48

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I remember an interview Tom Platz gave where he admitted that when he trained thighs, he trained so hard and to the point of complete exhaustion that it literally took him two weeks to fully recover!

Hard to believe, but if you've seen how he trains others it doesn't surprise me. I could only imagine how fried his CNS must have been from those marathon squat workouts.

I think he used to only squat twice a month or something for that exact reason

He also avoided taking the stairs on days leading up to his leg workouts; what a crazy guy
 

opietaylor

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speaking of Phil what is the latest on him? he still on social media?
 

g.r.o.w.t.h.

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Top secret formula for managing CNS fatigue. Rest days. It’s a cutting edge technique so you might not have heard of it yet.
 

kingpeon

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