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Brain Freeze

By admin | In Anatomy & Physiology, Psychology | on January 18, 2011

Drop in's Craig & Eric, tearing up Saturday's Partner WOD!!

Have you ever walked into the gym feeling relatively rested only to beat your head against the wall and repeatedly fail even when you know the weight is light for you?  I know I have.  It’s a clean and jerk you could do in your sleep but for some reason your body won’t cooperate?   Do you listen to your body or do you stomp your feet, dig in your heels and put more weight on the bar only to fail miserably and somehow stub your toe or hit your chin in the process? (as I have done)

Avelyne recently posted about her experience with over-training leading up to a meet  (Watch, out chica, there’s a bus coming your way!).  What she didn’t mention was that she was on the fourth week of a training program where you spend weeks 1-3 preparing for the “beatdown” in week 4.   Her dedication to her training inadvertently sabotaged her meet. It was my fault I didn’t rip the barbell away from her that day and send her home to rest. Not only were her muscles tired at the end of such a tough training week, but so was her brain.

What you guys are experiencing is neural fatigue. Unlike muscular fatigue (the burn during tabata squats, your burn out sets, and the push ups in Cindy), neural fatigue is a whole lot sneakier and harder to spot. Your muscles may or may not feel sore, you may have gotten plenty of sleep, and you may have even eaten Paleo all day! Dr. Phil Wagner of Sparta Point Symposium uses a great analogy to describe NF:

If the body is a car, then the nervous system is the driver. The nervous system is a network of nerves that transmits sensory impulses (signals) from the brain to the muscles by way of the spinal cord. The nervous system, aside from directing every function of the body, ranging from hormones to heart function, also governs all voluntary movement by alternating the action of muscular contraction and relaxation. In a review out of the University of Queensland, Neural Fatigue (NF) was defined as an involuntary reduction in voluntary activation.
Unfortunately, scientists are currently unsure on the exact cause of NF, though the most likely culprit is a combination of factors. The major theories include, but are not limited to, decreased reflexes, muscle damage causing impaired function, and decreased athlete motivation.

I know as a CrossFitting athlete, most of us have adopted the ’embrace the suck’ philosophy of gutting it through wods and pushing through the pain. However, there are times, particularly during complex and/or heavy lifts where you have to stop and listen to your body. If your brain (central nervous system) decides that it is tired and doesn’t want to go with the program and it’s a max snatch day, we’ll have you snatch balance, overhead squat, or even front squat instead. What you don’t want is to put in multiple reps with bad form or worse, injure yourselves.  **

You know how many muscles need to be working from head to toe for a back squat. Just imagine that you unrack a heavy bar and your brain fails to tell your butt to sit back or to brace your abs, etc. You can be in for a world of hurt, especially because it takes a good deal of coordination just to dump a heavy squat and get out of the way!

Let your brain take a break and come back fresh the next day instead of risking injury. Our goal every day is for you guys to train hard and come back the next day to do the same again.

**Don’t worry, our ‘sandbagger radar’ will be set on HIGH to prevent wodshopping in the name of neural fatigue!!**

WOD 01.18.11

Hang Power Snatch 3×3

Pull Ups
Push Ups
Jumping Squats

9 Comments to "Brain Freeze"

  • Pooja says:

    January 18, 2011 at 9:07 AM -

    a) that damn bus! it seems it’s hell bent on running over every intrepid 1 day or another 😉

    b) it’s about time you got a sandbagger radar! i’m with ya sista, let’s catch all them sandbaggers =P

    c) great post! couldn’t come at a better time too.. the pooj has been ignoring some massive knee pain during my runs. now i’m at a point where i can’t bend my knee or walk on it. and what’s worse is my 1/2 marathon is in 5 days and i may be at the point where I cant even race :( damn it!!!!

  • Michael H says:

    January 18, 2011 at 10:19 AM -

    My goal is to do this WOD to Nelly Furtado’s Maneater song and finish before her song.


  • Pooja says:

    January 18, 2011 at 10:26 AM -

    OMG SO IN!!!! good call mike :)

  • melissa says:

    January 18, 2011 at 11:56 AM -

    she calls herself “the pooj.” i dig it. :)

    there are some times when i totally get neural fatigue, but i guess i’ve always just chalked it up to me not being focused or having other things on my mind. now i’ll be able to rest easy when i mess up a lift instead of cussing and yelling. it’s okay, self, calm down. you have a pre-existing condition. :)

  • Alia says:

    January 18, 2011 at 12:41 PM -

    Mike! I had that song playing internally for the first round then that damn inner weak self deprecating me started talking too loud. Did the best I could and finished with a much better time than 2 years ago.

    “The Pooj”, I want to wear that as a cubic zirconium decorated brass knuckle set =)

    Speakin of that bus, it has to make the rounds. I just laugh at it and wave as it either passes me by or runs me over. I <3 bus.

  • Xuan says:

    January 18, 2011 at 12:54 PM -

    @Melissa, I don’t think you should stop cussing and yelling in the gym. I personally like it and think it adds to the atmoshpere :)

    Here is a tangent question for our inquisitive trainers. Is there a “best way” or method to specifically target improving muscle endurance? Recently I was called out by Marcus (that’s right none of this “person shall remain nameless crap”) because during the 4th round of Cindy I swapped out regular pushups to knee pushups. Apparently I am no longer allowed to do this, which makes me both frustrated and happy/satisfied at the same time. It did get me wondering if there are methods, supplements, stretches, voodoo chants etc. that may be out there to help improve muscle endurance. I have the same issue with box jumps or wod’s where there are a lot of squat movements and running. Thanks!

  • Michael H says:

    January 18, 2011 at 1:27 PM -

    BTW, Xuan pulling 4 hundo! on the DL’s yesterday. Buu–east!!

  • Pooja says:

    January 18, 2011 at 1:47 PM -

    i take back my “so in” comment… doctor gave me some not good news :(

    alia – brass knuckles on order.

  • melissa says:

    January 18, 2011 at 3:48 PM -

    BOOja. :(

    feel better, friend!

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