Training a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Sufferer!

Training a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Sufferer!

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a major health problem that can really alter a sufferer’s quality of life, the ability to complete normal day to day activities to a CFS sufferer is far harder than what it would be for a non-sufferer. Doctors haven’t yet certified the exact causes of chronic fatigue, they say it may be to do with viral or bacterial infection, an immune system disorder or the nervous and hormonal systems but nothing has been completely confirmed.

CFS is usually a diagnosis by exclusion, i.e. after all other possibilities have been excluded. The mitochondria, or powerhouse of the cells get easily depleted and to a CFS sufferer that is exactly how it feels, like your battery has drained and become completely flat. It can then take days, weeks or even months for you to get back to a reasonable level of functioning.

Your body’s homeostasis is completely disrupted and your ability to tell when you are, for example, hungry or tired are delayed until you are starving or exhausted which is far too late and can show to be extremely debilitating for sufferers when undergoing relatively normal day to day activities. This is why it is useful for CFS sufferers to be supervised when training in the gym because these delayed responses on how your body feels can make it extremely easy to fatigue.

A professional health coach will be able to analyse your body, measure how far you should be pushing yourself in terms of training and what targets you realistically should be achieving without you being dissatisfied with yourself.

Although a cause hasn’t yet been settled on, it has been shown that up to three months of regular exercise has positive differences in chronic fatigue syndrome sufferers.

Some of these benefits are as follows:

  • After regular exercise CFS sufferers were significantly less fatigued during the day
  • Less migraines after training, when training with a coach
  • Showed signs of a lowered depressive state
  • Regained strength and stamina
  • A better physical functioning
  • Fewer relapses and if any – lasts for a shorter period of time
  • Better sleep at night
  • Better ability to focus on work
  • Overall better quality of life than those taking medicated antidepressants such as Prozac

As a coach, it is important to properly communicate with a client that has CFS and go by how they are feeling on the day. You must remember that this illness is very idiosyncratic, so symptoms can vary from one individual to another. Have a blueprint plan ready but be aware how they come into the session, one day may differ to the next. In each situation you will have to adapt and try not push them too far out of their comfort zone.

Key things for a coach to remember also, is to best advise a balance of activities and help the client to pace and encourage small steps. This can be extremely difficult for the perfectionist type client who will tend to over-exert themselves as they will feel they are not doing enough or are not satisfied with their results. With a professional health coach guiding this kind of client, the client will be certain that they are on the right path, doing the right things and will be sure that they are moving forwards as well as constantly achieving new goals.

In my experience, using a simple number system helped by asking them where they feel they are between 1-10, 1 being their comfort zone and 10 being completely out of their comfort zone, I would aim to keep the client at 6.

Also, avoid pairing any exercises that are overloading one muscle group. Stick to basic movement patterns. Squats, push, pull, rotations, lunges, bend to extend, these will all help the client avoid overworking muscles and waking up with bad DOMS which as you can imagine would not be ideal for someone with CFS.

Feel free to leave a comment with any questions you may have!



  • Wendy Kettle
    21st November 2016 10:30 pm

    Great article Izzy. I can vouch for their training methods with chronic fatigue. I’ve had this condition for many years and have found great improvement in my stamina and I no longer suffer from the boom n bust with exercise. It has helped in terms of having enough energy to run my business and also to get married again. I wouldn’t have been able to manage all the stress that goes with planning a big event and of course the training also keeps me looking as well as feeling good!

    • Izzy Evolve
      22nd November 2016 1:40 pm

      Thank you for the great feedback, Wendy! We look forward to carrying on working with you in order to help you progress even further!

  • Stacey Bartley-Smith
    19th September 2017 11:22 pm

    Hi there
    I 2.5 years ago after being better for a number of years. I was running 20km a week and feeling well and then crashed. I can’t get back to that place. I really miss exercise. I had 5 weeks off the gym and went back this week, I did 20 squats on smith machine with no weight then 10 with 5 kg then 20 deadlifts then some chest presses. The next day like I’ve been hit by a bus, nausea intense fatigue, neck pain, headache. It’s so frustrating I went slow and focused on breathing and taking easy. Have you got any recommendations for a good start place to build some muscle tone…I feel soft flabby and not strong. – mother of 2 young boys and business owner- help

    • Izzy Evolve
      12th October 2017 3:24 pm

      Hi Stacey, sorry for the late reply we have had some problems with our website. After taking 20 weeks of from the gym it’s natural that your body is going to be quite fatigued. There is a few reasons why you may of felt it in such a intense way. I would recommend coming away from the smith machine and starting even with your body weight. The smith machine restricts your hips from moving in a natural way which could lead to unwanted pressure through your back and even your neck. I would start by targeting movements rather then exercises. For example when going to the gym make sure each session you cover the following movement paterns- bend to extend, squat, lunge, rotation, push and pull. This way you will retrain your body to move the way you want it to and regain the strength you once had without the risk of getting a injured. happy to give you some advice if needed

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