It’s Not Your Fault
by Erik Castiglione
Ever have a bad day at the gym? One of those days where the weights feel heavy, you can’t seem to move fast, and no matter what you try, your body just doesn’t respond? Ever have that turn into a week or two? I’m here to tell you that it’s not your fault.
When things aren’t going your way in the gym, it’s important to look at your life outside the gym (I am assuming you have one). Is work really stressful? Do you have family issues going on? Have you not been sleeping? I recently had a personal training client call me up ready to jump off a cliff because his squats were feeling super heavy and he was struggling to hit his prescribed percentages. After talking him off the ledge, he disclosed that he had just started a very high pressure project at work and was under a great deal of stress. Work stress, family situations, lack of sleep, training, they all take their toll on the body. Your nervous system doesn’t differentiate between the different kinds of stress, it just feels the cumulative effect. If you have a lot of other stuff going on, you probably won’t have the greatest workouts.
If you do make it to the gym during this stressful time because you’re still forcing yourself to train even though you don’t feel like it, you have three options:
1. Suck it up and tough it out. This option only works some of the time. You’ll have the occasional day where despite not feeling like training, once you get warmed up you’ll actually have a great session. Sometimes, you’re even able to hit a PR. Be advised, these days are very few and far between, so don’t expect it to happen. Enjoy the pleasant surprise if it does.
2. Dial back the volume or intensity. Percentages are there as guidelines, and if it’s not happening, lower them accordingly. If you’re really out of it, you can lower the volume (do fewer reps or rounds) in the metcon. This is easy for AMRAPs, but you may need to stop the rounds early if it’s a workout done for time. There’s no shame in scaling, especially if your body needs it.
3. Walk away. If it’s a really bad day, hang it up, go home, and live to fight another day. Sometimes this is the best option. Trying to force the workout can get you hurt. There’s no shame in this either.
If you choose options 2 or 3, make sure you ditch the mindset that you’re soft and making excuses. An excuse is a way to place blame outside yourself regardless of the situation and protect yourself from any responsibility or guilt; an explanation is a factual description of the causes of the problem in question, which may involve a mix of issues you may or may not be responsible for. If you legitimately need a light day or day off, you’re being honest with yourself and owning that fact, not making an excuse. At the end of the day, only you can tell the difference. Your stressful time will pass, so focus on the light at the end of the tunnel, and until then, do what you need to do.