Signs of burnout and the Road back to Recovery

Author Cory Fagan

By Cory Fagan

When was the last time you took a look in the mirror and said "I look tired and old!" The last 14 months of COVID and all the stresses associated can accumulate more than most people know. Signs of fatigue, poor sleep and a slower than normal recovery from exercise are common responses.

Outside of the pandemic fatigue, I have been working with Dr. Eleanor Stein for several years who specializes in in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CF/ME). My role with Dr. Stein's group is to help with the diagnosis of potential CF/ME in patients who have been plagued with fatigue. We perform VO2 testing to confirm the severity of fatigue and how the patient compares with the normal active population. Most interesting is that the symptoms that potential CF/ME experience is similar to the COVID-19 fatigue that many people are complaining of today. I originally thought CF/ME patients were extreme cases and rare. However, with the stress of the pandemic, I can see how many normal healthy adults can slide into CF/ME type symptoms. Over the years, I have assessed former Rowers, Gymnasts and Rugby players who scored less than 50% of their former VO2’s within a span of 3-5 years. So, fatigue can creep up on those who were once considered very fit.

The mistake that many CF/ME patients make is that they think they can recover after a few months of rest. Just about all of the patients I have assessed have said it has taken years to recover back to a normal state and many have been unable to get back to 100%. This is where Dr. Stein’s group has put together a team of specialists to assist in recovery including psychiatrists, psychologists, exercise physiologists and audiologists. Extreme fatigue is not a matter of getting more rest and taking a month off. A wholistic approach must be taken into account otherwise the road to recovery is long.

My advice to clients that were once active and energetic but now lethargic is to step back and make a plan. Consult some professionals. Build your exercise plan with aerobic intentions and do not go back to your “old ways.” Doing your weekly hard workouts will not get back into your old self. If anything, you will get worse. Exercise does not have to be painful or full of lactic acid. Training smart is developing a plan with a longer-term goal of recovery. Exercise is therapeutic and can be done without pain and the “burn.” If you are sensing that you are on the slide to fatigue, feel free to drop me a line to discuss further.

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