bad workout

When you’re really training for something, things go up and down. You’re going to feel beat up a lot and for stretches you’re going to have more bad days than good. Hell, if every day was AWESOME, you’re probably not working on your weaknesses enough or pushing your strengths hard enough.

But how do you know when you need a break, when you need to throw in the towel, or when you need to suck it up and take what you can get?

"Training is Tough, Push Through Anyway" Scenario

I would say that 80-90% of the time, when you’re feeling tired, grumpy, stiff and sore your best bet is to just suck it up and push through. Are you missing all your heavy snatches or did you have to bail out of your last squat today? That’s okay! Because you came into the gym and are moving around, you’re body is generally going to feel better the next time you come into the gym. Whatever stiffness, inflammation, and CNS fatigue that is causing the shit to hit the fan, at least you’re moving around today and shaking it off.

The important thing in this situation is to not beat yourself up physically or mentally. You’re having a bad day, it happens. The higher level athlete you are, the more it’s going to happen. It just comes with the territory of giving a shit. Do not go and “punish” yourself for a bad performance by adding in extra sets, reps, or exercises to make up for it. Your body is probably already in a recovery hole, which is why it is revolting against your efforts. Don’t push it further into the hole by piling on extra work.

“Throw in the Towel and Do Something Else” Scenario

This one is a little harder to figure out from the above scenario. There are days that everything feels off. I generally feel fine, but even my warm up weights feel really heavy. I miss my technical lifts even at light weights. Timing, coordination, and general strength aren’t clicking. In the above situation, usually I feel fine until I get to the heavier weights, and in this situation it all feels wrong from the start.

On days like this, I’ll often ditch my programming and just do something that doesn’t require much concentration. I might decide to do a bunch of light weight, higher rep push presses, for instance, instead of clean and jerks. Maybe I’ll not even try to substitute and do a whole program of body building type work: pull ups, dips, rows, curls, split squats and the like.

Again, don’t get down on yourself. You’re still getting work done, and likely your body will thank you for the change of pace.

“Go Home and Stay Home” Scenario

This one is really important. It doesn’t come up often, but when it does you really are better off heeding the call rather than bucking up.

After all, only newbies can afford to not take rest days. The more advanced an athlete is, the more their body is going to need those rest days.

For me, I need a week off about every two months. I’ve tried to fight it, but the pattern keeps popping up irregardless of the sport that I’m in. When I try to fight it, usually my strength plummets, my mood takes a dive, and I can’t seen to ever get enough sleep. Things start to hurt that have never bothered me before, and I get weird minor tweaks and pulls in joints and muscles no matter how much I’ve warmed up.

Luckily, I can now anticipate what’s going on before I start accumulating these minor injuries. My mental state usually is key. There are days that I just don’t feel like training, and there are days that I’d rather be doing ANYTHING ELSE but pick up a weight. It’s that last situation, where a dark pit in my heart of heart starts to swell and make me severely pissed off that I even have to consider lifting a weight, that I know it’s time for a week off. When that hits, I’m staying home.

When you take a week off (not sitting on the couch, but doing something that NOT IN THE GYM), you’re actually going to come back stronger. Sure, your first couple of days back might include a lot of soreness, but giving yourself a chance to really miss it can give you a renewed fire and your muscles the recovery the really need.

In summation, the big thing here is it give yourself a break. We’re in this game for the long haul, and if you want to last as long as you can in your sport, you’re going to have to take it easy now and then. Not every day can or should be beast mode. Leave a little in the take sometimes. Wear yourself out too regularly and you’ll never last long enough to see what you’re really made of.