Exercise Phase 2: Progressive Fatigue

Think about what happens after you initiate an exercise…

(Last week I described a way to initiate an exercise here: https://www.myogenicsfitness.com/3-phase-perspective-of-exercise-initiation-phase/)

Once we start producing any reasonable “exercise level” of effort what *must* happen is: our muscles start to fatigue.

If our implicit or explicit purpose is to move a weight, to move our body, to produce a certain level of force, or whatever, then this fatigue feels frustrating–even defeating.

But if our goal is *exercise*, then moving weights, moving our bodies, or whatever we’re doing with our efforts are *means*–not ends. Exercise means putting a challenge to our muscles. And because the more we challenge our muscles the more fatigue they experience, the fatigue we produce actually tells us something positive about how much we’ve achieved.

So, far from viewing fatigue as a pesky impediment to our goal–of, say, moving a weight, we can embrace fatigue as a sign of accomplishment of our goal. And to a strong degree, the more fatigue, the better.

A simple way I like to think of this as a “stair stepped progression”:

If I’m lifting a weight, I expect–and strive–to make each repetition feel *noticeably* more challenging than the previous one. And during each movement, I’m thinking that my goal is to set myself up for the next repetition to feel significantly more challenging.

This way, I experience the added challenge–that *will* happen the same whether I want it or not–as a welcome accomplishment that I desire, rather than an impediment to my moving the weight.

To help with the idea of a stair-stepped progression, I like to do this RPE assessment…

I mentally asses, as I go, where I am on a scale of “rated perceived exertion” (RPE) that is a 0-10 scale, where “10” is 100% of the focus and effort that I can possibly put into it.

This way, instead of just feeling, “this is miserably hard!” I’ll think something like, “this feels miserably hard!…but I’m actually at about a “7”–hmmm…can I get myself to a 9 or 10 by the next rep?”

Doing this often dramatically changes my psychological experience of the exercise and helps me to get a lot more out of it.

If all goes well, you’ll pretty quickly get to where you’re at a 9 or 10. Or to a 7 or 8 that you *think* is a 9 or 10. Regardless, at this point you could stop the exercise having gotten a lot more out of it than you otherwise would have.

OR, you can see this as having set yourself up for Phase 3: an extremely short, but extremely valuable phase: the “full finish.” But I’ll get to that next time; don’t worry about it now.

For this next week or so, try putting your focus into being able to really experience the “stair stepped progression” of rising intensity during each repetition–or each few seconds–of an exercise you do. And see if you can mentally quantify your efforts with the 0-10 rating of perceived exertion along the way. A little practice at this goes a long way.

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