You’re (Probably) Not Tired: You’re Lethargic

By on April 8, 2022

“Why am I so tired?”

It has to be one of the most Googled health questions there is. And I am definitely guilty of searching for answers like this myself, in the past.

Thing is, though, I’m not tired any more. And, in fact, I probably never was.

Tiredness vs Lethargy

Let’s not argue about semantics here. Perhaps another term you could use would be “sluggish.”

The point is, whereas being tired means you’ve depleted all your resources and won’t be any use until you’ve had some rest, being Lethargic or sluggish is more like a kind of “power saving mode.”

If you are perfectly healthy and don’t work a physical job but you find yourself without enough energy to do anything much by the time you get home… lethargy is probably the issue here.

Why am I tired all the time?

And this is a big problem. I always say: you aren’t failing to stick to your workout goals or to build that side business because you don’t have time. If you’ve watched any boxsets on Netflix lately, time clearly isn’t the issue.

And accusing people of being lazy is just… lazy. People don’t choose to be lazy, so if you lack the MOJO to do anything useful after 5pm, there has to be a good reason.

See also: If You’re Moving, You’re Improving

Problem is, if we put it down to being tired, we assume there’s nothing much we can do about it. The only fix for tiredness is bed, right?

But it doesn’t make any sense. Your stores of glycogen and ATP are all still there.

Assuming you got at least at least an average amount of sleep, assuming you’re eating properly…  there’s no reason to be tired. And yet we have no energy.

So, what’s really going on?

“Why Am I Tired All The Time?” It’s Probably Not What You Think!

Chances are, the problem is simply that you haven’t moved much in the last several hours. You sat at a desk, sat in a cramped car or on a train, and sat when you got home. A lot of the time you were in dingy, artificial light. And you probably ate a fair amount of sugary foods.

All this has put your body into a deep “rest and digest” state. It has no reason to be alert and so it’s conserving energy. Your brain is likely awash with inhibitory neurotransmitters like melatonin and serotonin. Meanwhile, your limbs feel sluggish because they’ve effectively gone to sleep. Sometimes described as “somatosensory amnesia,” this is causes a loss of proprioception. You literally find it harder to engage the muscles, leaving you feeling weak and slow.

Is it any wonder you don’t feel like working out?

Add to this a reduced circulation, which means less blood to the muscles and brain, and likely shallow breathing…  is it any wonder you don’t feel like working out or building a website?

So, what can you do about it?

How to Get Your Energy Back

The good news is that this is really easily fixed. The solution is to start moving and being active again. This will get blood flowing, wake up your mind-muscle connection, and increase the production of excitatory neurotransmitters.

The trick is simply to make that movement gentle enough that you don’t balk at the idea.

For this, a little gentle mobility or movement training is perfect.

Now, here’s the thing, this can’t be an attempt to “trick yourself” into doing a more intense workout. You can’t trick yourself, just like you can’t tickle yourself. You must be genuinely okay with a small amount of gentle movement.

Side Plank

But if that’s all you do, that’s still excellent.

If you could only train for an hour a week, I would recommend breaking that into six ten minute mobility workouts. Far from being a waste of time, this could do wonders for the way you move and feel. You’ll reduce pain, you’ll move in a more functional manner, you’ll be stronger thanks to better movement patterns…

And the very act of doing a ten minute movement flow will boost your energy levels, your mood, and your productivity.

A deep squat, a dead hang, a bit of downward dog, some bird dog, crawling, reverse and side plank, some running on the spot if you’re up to it…

More Options for Boosting Energy

Better yet, of course, would be to use larger and somewhat more intense workouts split throughout the day. I’ve talked about this a fair bit lately, but it will essentially spike your various systems throughout the day keeping you primed and ready to go.

Training when tired

At the very least, you can implement some incidental training: do some squats while the kettle boils, or maybe hang a pull up bar and do pull ups when you pass underneath. You can stretch at the bus stop, or take the stairs three at a time.

See also: Low Effort Workouts: The Immense Value of Easy, Simple, and Fun Training

And other things you can do to wake yourself back up include splashing water on your face, getting fresh air, and exposing yourself to some natural light. So double points if you take your movement outdoors!

This is what has made all the difference to me. These days, as a parent of two, I’ve usually been awake for at least three hours before I even start work. Those three hours involve running around the house with my daughter on my shoulders, changing nappies, and making breakfast for everyone. And yet I have more energy for working out and writing at the end of the day than I ever did when I had more free time.

Any movement is better than nothing.

About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

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