Fatigue and Not Showing It – Working on Mental Toughness

It’s a simple fact that we get tired. There are countless products and websites that claim ways to beat fatigue or try to sell you that there’s something wrong with...

It’s a simple fact that we get tired. There are countless products and websites that claim ways to beat fatigue or try to sell you that there’s something wrong with you for being tired, but that’s silly. It’s like thinking there’s something wrong with you if you’re hungry.  Tired is a signal that your body and mind are beaming back and forth to each other and it is, in fact, up to you how you respond to that signal.

my vlog from yesterday, I talk about fatigue starting at around 1:18

There are, of course, everyday things like fatigue that, if they become chronic or are more severe than is reasonable, might be a sign of an underlying illness. We’re not talking about that. We’re just talking about how the experience of living in your body and mind as an adult is not the magical, endless-energy wonderland of being a kid. Just try to tire out a toddler. So, being tired is something that we all deal with to some degree. You don’t sleep enough because you’re a student or your job requires insane hours, or you don’t have an ideal diet, or your training hard all the time… or, all of the things you’re supposed to be doing are being done but it turns out there is no magical formula for never being tired and you just get tired. I, for one, am tired all the time. The other day Sifu was saying I should have a rest and I just laughed, explaining that being tired is part of my world experience now, “I’m tired like I’m short,” I said to him. He thought that was hilarious.

And, like being short, it’s one of those things that doesn’t always hinder me, but occasionally a limitation presents itself, like trying to reach something on a high shelf. There’s no, “what’s wrong with me?” thought, just a question of how to solve that particular issue: a chair, the handle of a long spoon, or just yelling for Kevin. I don’t put a lot of mental effort into my experience of being short in stature. It’s not something I need to “solve,” but rather presents particular challenges that, at times, must be solved. Same with being tired. I’m fine, but I’m going to need a chair or something.

The past few days have been exceptionally hard. I always go through phases of greater or lesser fatigue, but these phases of very low energy tend to be short-lived and, generally speaking, some are just hormonal. You just wait out the weather. But because these past few days have seemed to drag on and I’m not experiencing a relief from the difficulty, I’m just going to have to deal with it. It’s easy to be confident when things are going well, but you still have to be confident in order to accomplish the same things when it’s not all working. It’s easy to be positive when you’ve got an ice-cream cone, less so when you’ve been pooped on by a bird. See what I mean? But you can still do it, and if you’re going to be pushing through – because you can’t take time off every time things get difficult – you’re just going to have to find something to focus on that inspires you.

The phrase is, “whether you’re winning or losing, you should look the same.”

For me, in these past few days, I’ve been challenging myself with a mental toughness attitude that I took from the “Wrestling Mindset” podcast. It is, as the name suggests, aimed at wrestlers, but the lessons are really applicable anywhere and the work-ethic of wrestlers resonates with how I like to train. The phrase is, “whether you’re winning or losing, you should look the same.” I love this because it means both that you shouldn’t be overly confident and coasting, nor should you be under-confident and giving up or trying too hard. It means fighting to the last bell. It means never taking anything for granted. And in the specific context of my fatigue over these past 4 days, it means that anyone watching me on the bag or in padwork, or clinching or sparring, shouldn’t be able to tell that I’m tired. Whether I can go 10 more rounds or can barely make it through the next 10 seconds, I should aim to look the same. That way nothing is left up to chance; there’s no “we’ll see how it goes,” but rather I am actively determining how it goes. This may not make me less tired, but flopping my arms down and moaning doesn’t make me less tired either. So then it comes down to the values I want to express: do I want to look like a kid who has spent too many hours at the museum, or do I want to look like a kid who is trying to get as much time in at the playground before her mom says it’s time to go? Reality be damned… I want to look like the latter. And as a bonus, I might feel it as well.


If you liked this article you may like these Mental Training and Overtraining articles I’ve also written.

If you happen to love vlogs, here’s my Muay Thai Vlog Playlist, with over 200 entries:

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A 100 lb. (46 kg) female Muay Thai fighter. Originally I trained under Kumron Vaitayanon (Master K) and Kaensak sor. Ploenjit in New Jersey. I then moved to Thailand to train and fight full time in April of 2012, devoting myself to fighting 100 Thai fights, as well as blogging full time. Having surpassed 100, and then 200, becoming the westerner with the most fights in Thailand, in history, my new goal is to fight an impossible 471 times, the historical record for the greatest number of documented professional fights (see western boxer Len Wickwar, circa 1940), and along the way to continue documenting the Muay Thai of Thailand in the Muay Thai Library project: see patreon.com/sylviemuay


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