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Some cardio days are SO HARD: WHY? Any physical explanations?

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My Background:
Started exercising daily just before Christmas 2006.  Started out only being able to do 2-5 minutes on Elliptical machine.

Monday Wednesday Friday 30 minutes cardio on elliptical and lifting weights total body

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday or Sunday 1 hour cardio:  15 minutes treadmill, 15 minutes Cybex elliptical, 15 minutes Matrix Elliptical, 15 minutes Precor Elliptical Heart rate 145-165 bpm.

Here is my question:

Yesterday my 1 hour cardio was as difficult for me as it could be.  I felt like I had NO energy, NO ability to complete 1 hour, and just miserable.  I could not even keep my heart rate up to 150 because I felt like physically I just could not get my legs moving.

I pepped talked myself internally saying come on Kathy, go hard go hard.....  My brain just could not make my body go any harder.  I felt like I was ellipticalling (is this a word) through mud/sand/thick something or other.

This has happened on about 4 or so different occassions.  Why does this happen?  The day before my 30 minutes of cardio, I was SO ON, that I upped my last 15 minutes to level 6 and kept up the speed and my heart rate was soaring!  I felt GREAT!  ....then the next day miserable.

I did increase my weight lifting from 15 reps of with 1 set to heavier weights and 2 sets of 10 so I was a bit sore from Wednesday, but not enough to warrant this mind-boggling lack of energy physically ?????????? 

Is there a physical explanation for this ?  I ate alot of protein and carbohydrates, and ate healthy??!?!!!!??

I just cannot explain when this happens.

So is it mental?
Is it Physical?

Is it nutrional?


Kathy 38 years old current weight 234.4 Starting weight 262.
14 Replies (last)
Well, my first thought is nutritional, but it's hard to even guess without more info.

What's your average calorie intake?

(good job on the weight loss so far!  :-) )
I have those hard days as well.  However, on some other days, I feel I can run FOREVER.  My body is full of energy and feels so good when running. 

(Thanks)  :o)

I am eating actually MUCH MORE than I would like to.  1,800 to 2000 or more on bad days.  :( 

But, I am trying to eat more fruits veggies, whole grains and increasing my protein intake with a serving of canadian bacon in the AM and two 70 calorie eggs poached on an english muffin for instance....

My favorite thing to make is a lower calorie taco salad.  I get the 96 / 4 % LEAN ground beef and brown it into taco meat with taco bell seasoning.  I get a huge plate full of green lettuce and dump 1/4 pound of the meat on it, and 1/4 cup 2% milk cheese, and pico di gallo, and salsa, and light sour cream...........   YUMMY

So, while my eating habits have changed....   if I were eating 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day strictly, the weight would be falling off.  :)

I just cannot figure out why on occassion my workouts are so physically difficult, that I just want to cry.  My mind tells me that I just cannot hang on for another minute (although I do, at a much less brisk pace).

Aw, don't beat yourself up.  Those days just happen, probably from a combination of all the things you mentioned, plus maybe others you didn't (hormonal fluctuations, bad night's sleep, stress or anxiety, infections or allergies, feelin' depressed, bad TV night       ;-) ... the list goes on!).  It's perfectly ok to give yourself a day off the workout every once in a while; your body and mind need to recharge, and sometimes a little rest is all you need to get the energy levels back up.
I don't know if this will help as I am older (54) and have asthma, but I find that if I do more than about 30 minutes of cardio in one day, I'm not as good at it the next day. So what I eventually worked out was that I could do 30 minutes cardio and 30 minutes resistance training each day. On the resistance training, I alternate days (upper one day, lower the next) and do it as a mini-circuit.

I've been doing this since last August, and am much more energized than I was when I tried to push myself to do 45 or 60 minutes of cardio, and I'm stronger (lifting heavier weights), and I've lost 36 pounds (from 227 (224 when I joined CC) to 191).

The other thing that I had to do was to eat more--I had been trying for a 750--1000 calorie deficit and was losing weight but started losing muscle mass as well, so I've gone from trying to eat 1500--1600 per day to 1800--1900 per day.

I hope that helps--I'm sure you will find something that works for you, and hope that you continue to make good progress!
Well, it doesn't look like a nutritional issue - you have a healthy amount of calories for the amount of activity you listed.   You can use CC tools to see if your calorie deficit is too much or too little if you're unsure.

As for the exercise, it could be related to a lot of things.  Do you think amount of sleep or environmental conditions could be factors? (those are the ones that affect me the most)

Oh, and I noticed from your schedule that you do cardio every day, which is impressive, but seems pretty ambitious.  Perhaps you could take a break from the vigorous cardio on a couple of days, and go to something lower key but still active like yoga or tai chi? 

Hope this helps!  :-)
I've noticed I feel that way when I haven't eaten much veggies and fruit earlier in the day.
This happens to me ALL THE TIME.  I work out on the elliptical every single morning, and some days I have that horrible feeling where it feels like I'm slogging through mud.  Other days, though--working out at the same intensity--I feel like I have tons of energy.  I really don't know why it is, either.  Sometimes I feel like I have more energy on days when I eat some protein before I go.  I don't know, though.  It's a pain in the butt; you're not alone.
I seem to have this happen every sunday - I have a heck of a time getting my heart rate up over 100 wehn I do my Sunday walks.  I do the same route on Frid Sat and Sunday but Sunday's I feel like I am wasting my time but I walk and enjoy my music and the "me time"

It can also be your body telling you to take it easy on me today.  Sometimes there are stressors in our lives and bodies that we may not consciously be aware of but our bodies just need time to regroup.  Maybe instead of doing the normal routine try just taking a walk and enjoy the spring  or try the stationery bike or a rower or something new that your body might say hey this is cool!  Sometimes we need to shake up our routines so its not "so routine"
My guess is nutritional and stress level.

First you haven't mentioned how many cals you consume, whether you on a balanced diet matters most.

Since you work out 7 days, you body might not have enough rest between each workout, you push too hard and it takes toll on your fitness level.  If you insist on working out 7 days a week, go easy on the day after weight training, say instead of one hour cardio, go for 35-45 min on lower level.

Now, here is what makes me afraid of myself, you guys....

I took a break yesterday.  I did not do cardio, or weight lifting. 

Now, today....  I so don't want to go do anything. 

I have this obsessive type of personality.  It is all or nothing.  That is what makes me afraid of myself.  I am trying to enjoy life in moderation, but that is difficult for me.

I am either counting every calorie that enters my mouth, or eating everything in sight without concern.  I either exercise like a machine, or then want to sit and eat Cheetos, and Ben & Jerry's and watch TV.

So, I will pick myself up, step away from the computer and go to the YMCA. 

Talk to you all later.......

In a word: recovery.

The less fit we are, the longer it takes for our bodies to recover from intense exercise. The older we are, the longer it takes. You have both those things contributing here, I'm afraid. :-(

But that's okay! Even incredibly fit, young people have days like this! Anytime we push the body a bit harder than it's used to, it needs recovery TIME to adapt. To build stronger joints, stronger muscles, and - most importantly for cardio - a stronger HEART.

When you run into days like this, there are two valid strategies: 1) quit the workout, and take a well-earned day off. 2) keep going and schlogging through the workout, but go at a very easy pace. Easy pace is called a "recovery pace" for very good reason. If necessary, try a different, less intense activity than elliptical, such as walking.

What's more, when it comes to running, for example, the general advice is to make 80% of your running days at easy, recovery pace. And only 20% where you are pushing for intensity - i.e., longer or faster. Your body will not continue to improve if you keep forcing it to adapt too fast. You need recovery time. The older and the less fit, the more recovery time you need.

If you had a heart rate monitor, you'd probably discover that on that tough schloggy day, your resting heart rate was still higher than normal. I don't have an HRM, but I've been told by those who do that this is one way you can tell whether your body has fully recovered from an excersise. The fitter you are, the faster your heart rate will recover.

It's also a good idea to build in a few recovery days a month, i.e., take off a full two-three days each month. I've been doing this since October, even though it's really hard because I'll feel guilty, but, I end up logging my fastest pace after I take off some time.
I second exactly what jenmcc have said, after intense workout on one day, you should rest and recover the next day. Your body needs 24 - 48 hours to recover after intense running. You may try cross training with easy days following hard days, that way you should be able to maintain you fitness level, yet working out.
I have those hard days too! Like today for example I only did 30 min on the elipticle which is actually great I think, its what I was doing every time I did it for two months but in the last week I bumped it up to 40 or 45 min but i'm always soooo tired after that and bright red and soked in sweat. Thirty min is a good workout but I was trying to keep up with recent good doings. Anyways the whole thirty min I was thinking 20 more min. 10 more min. 7 more min...... And normally I don't do that. I normally enjoy it. And this has been happening with all my other cardio workouts too. My doc told me to take a whole week off from working out and then get back into it. She said sometimes you just get burned out. But I'm not ready to stop yet. When I really feel burned out I will take a break. I think i'm just beeing lazy and I was kinda sore today because I started pilates over the weekend.

Mabey just a couple days rest could be benficial to you and me both. I just don't want stop for a whole week.
14 Replies