A central tool to any powerlifter, strongman, Olympic lifter, or strength focused athlete is their central nervous system or more commonly referred to as their CNS. For instance, in powerlifting, their is different mesocycles a powerlifter may implement in their training program to encourage a certain response from their body. For instance, a hypertrophy cycle allows the powerlifter to gain much needed muscle on their frame which will in turn result in an increased ability to move a greater load. In preparation for competition, the powerlifter will begin to peak which is essentially just a fine tuning of the Central Nervous System to act in coordination with the newly built muscle. This is where CNS fatigue will be omnipresent and must be managed with the utmost care.
Depending on programming, experience, and recovery, a person will accumulate and manage fatigue differently. I have provided a list of symptoms I see in my athletes when their nervous system is on the verge of overextension, which include the following.
1. Sleep - An individual who's nervous system has taken a hit will usually feel like they can never catch up on sleep. On the other hand, an individual who has absolutely ransacked their nervous system will likely have issues sleeping at all. If either of these symptoms present themselves, it is time to reduce load and intensity to allow your CNS to rebound.
2. Appetite- A sign of a healthy nervous system is a voracious appetite. If you're training encourages the consumption of food you are on the right track. If the sight of food makes you feel sick, your nervous system is way overextended.
3. Mental Clarity- An easy indicator of a CNS fatigue is mental fog. If you feel forgetful or just slow in your thought process it could be indicative of an overextended nervous system.
4. Mood Changes- Going along with mental clarity, if you begin to feel anxious or depressed and that is outside of your normal emotional state, an overextended nervous system could be a contributing factor.
5. Sickness- Sometimes referred to as "Yoke Flu", an overextended nervous system can manifest as physical illness. Symptoms such as fever and diarrhea are also good indicators of a damaged nervous system.
If any or all these symptoms are present you may be experiencing an overextended nervous system. So what do we do to fix that.
1. Rest- Sleep is paramount. The CNS repairs itself during REM sleep so getting to sleep and staying asleep for a full 8 Hours can make managing fatigue easier.
2. Eat- Eat. The body needs resources to repair any damage it experiences. Increasing your fat intake will also increase your fatigue management capabilities.
3. Reduce Intensity- If you are fucked up there is no point in fucking yourself up more. Reduce the load and intensity your body is experiencing and give it time to catch up with recovery. A failure during training can have CNS fatigue ramifications for up to 2-3 weeks after failure so give yourself a solid 2 weeks for recovery before throttling back up. Ideally, "deloads" should be preplanned to prevent overextension from occurring in the first place.
4. Reduce Stress- Stop being a crazy asshole and take a breath. Stress begets Cortisol and Cortisol prevents recovery. Listen to relaxing music, take a walk, or meditate. Whatever you have to do to reduce stress, do it.
This is just a small list of things I have seen in my experience as a coach. If you have any questions feel free to reach out. Additionally, if you have any information that you have seen about CNS fatigue I would love to hear it.