Are you a sucker for punishment? Prone to pushing yourself to extremes? Think a workout is wasted if you don’t feel absolutely flawed after? It might be time to re-evaluate your training approach, well, if you plan to go to work after! When it comes to achieving a ‘good workout,’ the popular notion stands that unless you push your body until it fatigues, you won’t support muscle growth.
Now while there is merit to that theory in terms of body benefits, what may not work on your side, is the effect of fatigue on your brain. A new study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has revealed that training beyond fatigue actually can do more harm than good when it comes to learning and getting better at skills or tasks.
Researchers had participants do a pinch-force task—where they were asked to press a device at different force levels with thumbs and fingertips—and found that after fatiguing on the first day, when asked to perform the same task on the second day with the other hand, the initial fatigue hindered their ability to perform the task well on the other hand. And in fact, it took them two additional days of training without fatigue to catch up to the same level as the control group. The result of all this? Researchers were able to determine that when people work to fatigue it impairs the motor skill learning mechanisms in the brain and affects the memory formation needed for people to learn and retain new skills. Which means, when it comes to exercising, perhaps working to exhaustion should be left as an evening only activity.
While CrossFit and other cult strength training classes promote the ‘go hard or go home’ theory, if you’ve got a job that requires learning or memory of any kind, it might not cultivate the best brain power you need to smash goals at the office. This doesn’t mean you can’t do said workouts, but just consider taking it down a notch, or taking it up a notch but after hours – right before bed when your need for retaining information is dwindling and your need for sleep is high. Worth noting though—studies have proven that ‘overtraining’ can also affect sleep quality, so if you know you tend to go too hard and overdo it on the regular, be kind to your body and slow it down, after all, according to MindBodyGreen—slow is the new fast when it comes to fitness. With the rise of conscious and mindful movement, less is becoming more—and if you’ve ever been to a slow Pilates class, you know what we’re talking about! So, if muscle fatigue has fast become your fitness MO, take a memo from the experts and dial it down, you’re boss and sleep will thank you!