Facing Fatigue Factors: Exercise Fatigue vs. Chronic Fatigue


Professional Trainers and many clients have started or will soon establish “new normal” patterns for exercise after our COVID-19 “gap year.” One aspect of this gap year emergence is fatigue, which NFL Coach Vince Lombardi once asserted “makes cowards of us all.

Perhaps his normal game time challenge rang true for professional football players. Yet our clients’ games of life may include fatigue in two different lights.   These different lights involve megatrends of daytime sleepiness/sluggishness and inadequate personal energy to get things done. According to Harvard Health, this perceived or actual energy deficit may be symptomatic of:

“depression…pain syndromes, heart failure, multiple sclerosis, anemia, hypothyroidism, and diabetes, all of which require medical attention.”

Some of our clients may experience abnormal fatigue as excess baggage, thereby impacting their capacity and capability to train effectively and regain bodily homeostasis.

Besides learning to face and deal with fatigue during a workout this article aims to:

  1. Cite timeless aspects of these fatigues that we face.
  2. Differentiate between “normal” fatigue and chronic (abnormal) fatigue, then offer nervous, physical, and mental warning signs or symptoms for awareness.
  3. Describe abnormal fatigue as a symptom of underlying conditions or even diseases which trainers should be aware of and should practically accommodate.
  4. Consider viable energy boosts and lifestyle changes.
  5.  Summarize ways to face fatigue and counter-act it with personal energy.

Energy Vs Fatigue Client Tipping Point Df


Fatigue wasn’t born yesterday!

Ancients defined fatigue as “ satiety or surfeit”. This term evolved to mean “tire out” and then to mean, “a task that causes weariness.”

Roman stoics encouraged proteges to exercise until weary, then return to their even-keeled, scholarly ways.  They truly appreciated the linkage among the brain, nerves, and muscles to maintain balance, or homeostasis, in life. One stoic, Epictetus, encouraged Romans to acknowledge a split between what factors in life can be influenced or controlled, and what cannot.

With this conscious split in mind, consider this training scenario:

A middle-aged client shares a general malaise with their trainer and is frustrated for not being in control of personal progress from training progressions.

Has this client lost the ability to influence or control progress?

A short answer is that it depends.


Stretching Principles


There is fatigue, and then there is FATIGUE!

  • fatigue: Exercise-induced tiredness or short-term lifestyle weariness is the type of “normal” fatigue that clients and their trainers can favorably influence with energetic activity and prudent rest. Think of overtraining, excess caffeine, or burning the candle at both ends.
    • With timing in mind, restorative rest and energetic activity should alleviate a client’s normal fatigue in a few days or weeks.
  • FATIGUE: Conversely, chronic long-term fatigue, may have root causes that are not easily influenced by training.  In fact, chronic fatigue may, unfortunately, be worsened by physical or mental activity, and may not improve with rest.
    • Think of a client with cancer or rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Think of mental anxiety or depression. Or, think of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) which is not directly related to disease or medical condition.
      • When weariness or fatigue extends beyond several weeks, then the client and trainer may, unfortunately, be facing abnormal or chronic fatigue. It is then a probable time for medical professionals to get involved.

Caution 943376 640


Trainers should be aware of common warning signs of abnormal or chronic fatigue. Some of these cautionary signs may be manageable and others may not be:

  • Medications
  • Recent medical treatments, or surgical recovery
  • Infections
  • Chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, thyroid disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Anemia
  • Sleep apnea.

Energy Boosts or Lifestyle Changes

Acknowledging the complexities of fatigue factors, professional trainers may need the support of medical professionals to evaluate proper volume, intensity, and tempo of energetic workouts for clients. For some cancer survivors, exercise may or may not be recommended.

The see-saw depicted earlier suggests that applied energy may, or may not counter-act the complexities of fatigue.

When facing this dynamic see-saw, a trainer may consider and possibly suggest:

  1. A journal to document fatigue patterns
  2. Breathing and balance activities
  3. Avoidance of long afternoon naps
  4. Moderation and timing of alcoholic drinks
  5. An adjustment for the timing of daily activities
  6. A new evaluation of daily energy equations (macro-nutrient consumption vs caloric output).

Cancer Recovery Specialist course

Apply Personal Energy to counteract long-term Fatigue

Depending on a client’s physical and mental statuses (and medical professional guidance), long-term, abnormal fatigue may be mitigated with an appropriate activity or activities. As each client with long-term fatigue is unique, the professional trainer must be resourceful in tailoring energetic activities to see-saw win the battle vs. weariness.


Dave Frost has served the fitness community as a NFPT-certified CPT since 2013, and a Master Fitness Trainer since 2019. As a Medicare-aged baby boomer, he specializes in training those clients who intend to stay “well past forty”. He is a former world champion in Masters Rowing and National Indoor Rowing champion for his age group. He is also a group fitness instructor for The Row House. His website is https://wellpastforty.com. Dave recently published his work: KABOOMER: Thriving and Striving into your Nineties to promote stamininety for those intending to add years to their lives and life to their years.