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What Fatigue Looks Like

I’m teaching Exercise Physiology this semester, and my lecture topic on Thursday is fatigue. As I always do, I start the lecture with a video that demonstrates extreme fatigue pretty vividly, thought I’d also share it here!

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a biology teacher, track/soccer coach, and dad (x3) with a passion for running, soccer, and science. If you'd like to learn a little bit more about who I am and what I do, click here, or visit


  1. Yikes!!

  2. Possibly a lack of preparation and adequate planning throughout the race?

    • Pete Larson says:

      These are elite triathletes, so don’t think preparation is the issue. Fueling maybe, but probably a big part is simply the intensity of competing in an event like this at the highest level.
      Sent from my iPad

  3. I wonder if this video is an example of localized leg muscle fatigue from the long race, or “central fatigue,” where the central nervous system makes movement difficult in order to protect the body against overheating, etc. Probably an example of both?

    • Pete Larson says:

      Probably both, but I’d guess there is some severe glycogen depletion here. I don’t think any amount of willpower would allow these women to run normally in this case. Could be some neurological fatigue at the level of synapses too.
      Sent from my iPad

  4. Gøran Slettemark says:

    Reminded me of this… episode of Radiolab.

  5. That’s the classic!

    I like this one too:

    Bonkity bonk bonk!

  6. I dunno. I’m thinking training fail. Being an elite athlete doesn’t guarantee smart training choices. How could someone let themselves get so far gone? As for fueling, I have a hard time imagining a fueling change pulling someone out of a pit this deep.

  7. That literally made me cry to watch.

  8. “In a battle for 4th place.”

    • RunTraveler says:

      The thing is… depending on when the race occurred, those women didn’t finish in 4th and 5th place — they would’ve been disqualified for crawling. (USA Triathlon instituted the rule after the famous Julie Moss incident in the 1980s.)

  9. Chuck Heschmeyer says:

    Awesome. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Andrew Bentley says:

    Found that really hard to watch. I’m a big fan of endurance sports and I completely admire the courage and determination displayed by the athletes in the video but pushing yourself to continue when in that sort of condition must have long term health implications. In my opinion you are better to pull out live to fight another day (healthy) and figure out why it happened and what you can do about it for the next event. This type of battering must have been detrimental to her future performances ……………..

    • RunTraveler says:

      I also found the video hard to watch… That sort of health risk is why USA Triathlon made “crawling” illegal. Crawl = Disqualified.

  11. At the 1998 Commonwealth Games in KL, New Zealand had a walker who was leading the 50km who collapsed with 1km to go. His collapse was apprently caused by hyponatremia – drank too much water, and sweated too much. He didn’t finish. It was really hard to watch.

  12. clinton.munkres says:

    more likes this is what dying looks like. How do you not help someone who is literally dying in from of you. People just run by likes it’s ok.

  13. archie86 says:

    Wow. I’ve never seen such a display of fatigue. Thanks for the find, Peter. So painful to watch, though.

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