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A brick wall.

What To Do When You Hit the Wall

09/08/2014, 5:00am PDT
By Kelvin Cech

A tired rant about fatigue and what to do about it.


It will start as a hunch.

A quick inkling in your gut, a glimmer of awareness.

You might not understand exactly what’s happening at first. Soon, though, when you’re wearing your pants backwards or you drop your child off at your other child’s school, you’ll know.

You’ve hit the wall.

Have you ever found yourself standing in the middle of a room wondering what it was that brought you there? I sure have. And no, I wasn’t referring to myself with the above-mentioned backwards pants fiasco. That’s a story unfit for this here family blog. 

Hitting the wall is natural. As a parent of a busy athlete, if you haven’t hit the wall in the last month, chances are you are actually a robot. Better get that checked. 

It Happens to All of Us

Hitting the wall means you’re suddenly deprived of energy, you can’t think straight and you really have no desire to make the attempt at doing anything.

Busy people hit the wall. Over-worked people hit the wall. 

Does this sound familiar? 

  • it’s taking extra time to get out of bed each morning for more than two days in a row 

  • your muscles are sore

  • the last place you want to be is anywhere

Depression is a huge indicator of mental exhaustion, especially in athletes. Fatigue can take a run-of-the-mill dilemma and multiply it several times thanks to a lack of motivation to solve that dilemma.

The problem with hitting the wall is that most of us don’t know how to stop whatever it is that’s causing us to wear down. 

For instance, I know a guy who worked on a writing proposal all morning, ran four hockey practices in the afternoon and then went to a coffee shop to write an article about hitting the wall. He thinks he’s a smart, funny guy, but the truth is he should probably change something before he wakes up wearing someone else’s pants.

Just Stop, Dummy!

Easy for you to say!

Of course, the answer is simple! But we can’t stop, can we? We can’t neglect our responsibilities, nor should we. After all, you got yourself into this mess, and damn it, you’re going to get yourself out of it!

This is the bargaining stage of exhaustion, and once we’re in this stage, that’s when we get sick. The flu and the common cold prey on an immune system that’s compromised because of a lack of sleep. 

So, when we hit the wall, are we actually holding up under the pressure of our responsibilities and performing the way we should? 

No. We’re not. At least not to the standard that’s expected of us. 

So let’s be smart. There’s a distinct difference between working through a long, tough day a couple times each week and working ourselves to the brink of exhaustion without actually accomplishing much.

Solution 1: Take a Break

Romeo Gerhardt is a fitness instructor with ISIS at the North Shore Winter Club. Romeo often teaches a session before breakfast, a couple classes after breakfast, squeezes in a workout of his own before eating a snack and training two or three groups after lunch.

In Romeo’s experience, the key to avoiding a complete shut-down is to listen to your body 100% of the time.

“Sometimes your mind wants to train but your body is just finished,” says Gerhardt. “Your focus is off, your chance of injury is higher, and you’re really not accomplishing anything positive anyway, so it’s a better bet to just stay away from the gym, or at least away from your typical high-intensity workout. 

Solution 2: Go Do Something Else

Whatever it is that’s pushing you to your limit, set it aside (when you can) and remove your mind from that environment. Often it’s the stress we put on ourselves when we’re immersed in something we’re passionate about that does us in. 

Here’s a couple alternatives to whatever is draining your life force:

  • Yoga 

  • Bike rides 

  • Pawning your kids off on The Jones’

  • Pawning your husband off on … The Jones’

  • Walks after dinner

  • Standup comedy 

  • A week of as much Netflix as humanly possible

No One Else But You Can Fix You

Working in and being a part of a place like the North Shore Winter Club is a phenomenal experience, but it’s easy to forget the tax we place on our sanity when we immerse ourselves in activities we’re passionate about. Sometimes our bodies and minds perform better after we disappear for a week.

And if you’re tempted to follow this advice, remember that you’ll return a happier, better version of yourself.

But, wherever you go, and whatever you do, just make sure you remember to wear pants.

Or not, whatever floats your boat, right?

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