Psych yourself out of fatigue

2020-02-06 @Lifestyle

We all face moments of physical fatigue. Legs become heavy. The muscles refuse to cooperate. The body feels drained even stationary.

I’ll share a strategy that has repeatedly enabled me to defy the weary state. It’s not caffeine or stimulants. Rather, it’s strictly mental.

Separate yourself from your inputs. I’ve encountered this phrasing in the context of meditation, but thought it very applicable to the case.

You are no longer the exhausted person. It’s your body. Recognize the physiological state and engage it with humor. Sounds simple?

I indeed find it simple, although there’s a little more to it. You must act as if your body is not undergoing the symptoms of fatigue. Fake it until you fool your brain into ceding the transmission of the compromising signals.

A related strategy applies well to athletics and competitive sports, but I find it useful on quiet a common basis, in the most rudimentary of situations.

I provide here a very practical example.

Hiking an intense trail along the Corcovado mountain some weeks back, I experienced the following progression.

My legs had already felt fatigued before I even approached the entrance into the park below. The whole body felt wobbly and nagging for days.

Fifteen minutes into the 4 km trail at a steep incline, and I’d begun to face doubts. I knew I’d reach the top, but I felt skeptical as to the condition or the humor level.

But I kept a steady pace. And while sweat dripped in streams, I didn’t grow more weary. For whatever it’s worth, I’ve come to disassociate sweat from fatigue.

Then I caught up to a group of tourists, some demonstrating notable exhaustion. The more I observed it, the fresher I personally felt.

I paced (at this point climbed) more energetically. Passing to the front of the group, I began to regurgitate roughly the train of thought that I here share.

I did this in effort to elevate the spirits of the lady behind me, although it probably had more impact on myself. I recited this fairly methodically, almost academically.

So much talk didn’t further drain me either. In fact, I soon noticed that I’d adapted a nearly running pace, hopping along ledges, cavities, rocks, caulescent roots, and at this point a very steep incline.

Having reached the remaining 500-800 meter stretch along what was now the paved road, I jogged to the top with a couple of other tourists that happened to pass. This too would have sounded lunatic, had someone suggested it an hour back.

What had I done? Merely hacked the body and separated myself from the inputs; quiet arrogantly, you may argue, but effectively. I analyzed the corporal situation externally, as if it concerned not my body but some other.

A similar case presented itself amidst the New Years celebration at the Copacabana beach. I’m an early riser and already felt depleted after 22:00 hours. My prerogative emphasized conservation of energy and rest, all the while struggling to combat sleep.

I anticipated all this in hopes to at least partially circumvent the effects, but in vain. They consumed me anyway.

After the midnight fireworks, we commenced the return journey, which, for a while, would consist of a long walk towards an area that would enable some motorized transport (a vast portion of Copacabana and parts of Ipanema otherwise closed to all but pedestrians).

My companion, sympathetic to my visual condition, supported my arm on her shoulder as we sluggishly made our way along with the masses.

Then I switched on the analytical brain. Why does this all feel incredibly draining? Why are we crawling at a decrepit pace?

Because I much facilitated it. I was playing the part of a senile pensioner in broken down shape. Or a severe drunkard, although I hadn’t consumed a drop of anything but water. Enough of this pathetic sonambulation.

We began to walk normally. I even increased the pace to that that I reserve for passing lagging pedestrians.

In under 10 minutes, I was alert and energized. Another separation of self from input. Another hack.

In the epoch that I ran half-marathons, or even shorter races, upon introspect, I conducted similar hacks to elevate performance.

Never slow down. Only increase the pace. Function as under a surplus of energy that you know not what to do with.

Because when exhausted, acting exhausted tends to only amplify the condition. And if the brain manages to further compromise the perceived state, it logically follows that it can manage the opposite - that is, simulate enhanced performance.

A few concluding remarks to consolidate the message:

Questions, comments? Connect.