Fitness vs Fatigue: Creating Balance for Increased Performance

Our one goal when completing a training program is to become more fit in some way. Our fitness could be endurance, power, strength, athletic performance, or any other possible outcome of a training program. However, fitness is not the only byproduct of training, we also create fatigue. This fatigue is necessary as it is a cumulation of the stress applied to our bodies to create change. without stress and fatigue, we cannot change. If we want high performance, we need high fitness with low fatigue. This leaves use with a high level of preparedness for performance. If we have high fitness and high fatigue, our preparedness would be lower, leaving us farther away from the peak performance we want to achieve.


So how do we combat fatigue in the never-ending search for increased fitness? The first step is making sure our training stimulus (volume or intensity) is at the correct level. Too much of a stimulus and we could create too much fatigue and stress, and too little stimulus and we don’t create enough stimulus to change.


The second step to keeping fatigue in check is making sure our recovery is as close to optimal as we can make it. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, make sure your nutrition is on point, your mobility sessions are consistent. If we keep our recovery at a high rate, we will overcome fatigue faster, resulting in faster increases in performance.


The last step in overcoming fatigue is to periodize your training most people I know go to gym, crush their muscles, and leave. There is no real thought or goal other than progress. Periodizing allows us to plan out training templates ahead of time. These periods could be planned years in advance if we need to. When we periodize our training, we methodically place a stimulus that causes fitness and fatigue but has different blocks of intensity allowing us to overcome our fatigue every few weeks. Most of the training I program is in 4 blocks.

1. High volume low intensity

2. Medium volume medium intensity

3. Low volume high intensity

4. De-load

Working in 4-week blocks allows us to create enough fatigue to initiate increased fitness, then recover from our fatigue while leaving fitness at a higher level before going into the next cycle. Fatigue will diminish much quicker than fitness so a few sessions at a lower volume/intensity will give great reduction in fatigue.


Monitoring fitness and fatigue is a great way to ensure continued success. If we are beginning to see less improvement, we may have too much or too little fatigue and need to be making sure we are creating balance with our training, recovery and nutrition to promote a consistently improving level of fitness.



Chris Still

BS Exercise Science

CSCS, USAW

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