I was recently talking with CJ about one of his athletes who was having a string of terrible days in the gym. It got me thinking about why it is that we find ourselves in ruts sometimes. Why is it that our bad training days seem to come in cycles? More importantly, how do you break that cycle and get out of your rut?
I have had my fair share of bad training days. There are few things as frustrating as being in one of these “ruts” with your training. You know you can perform better, and you know how to perform better, but sometimes it just doesn’t click. So what do you do?
I think these are the times where we need some confidence boosters, simple reminders that we’re still decent athletes . . . and more importantly, decent people. That might sound silly, but you’d be amazed at how a bad day in the gym can make you feel like you’re not good at anything – work, relationships, parenting, etc….
Here are a few ideas that might help you break out of your rut . . . and none of them involve smothering yourself in chocolate or booze.
Do What You Do Best
If you’ve been having a string a bad days, the best way to break that streak is to do something that you KNOW you can do pretty well. You know, the movements or workouts that help you to leave the gym feeling like a rock star. Select two or three of those movements that you really like and excel at and create a little conditioning workout with them. I call these workouts “uppers.” I tend to fall back on man-makers or a “12 Days of Christmas” workout. Those are my favorite. Do these workouts for a few days and before you know it you’ll be back in that positive mindset.
Change Your Mindset
Speaking of mindset…yeah change yours. ☺ Realize that going to the gym should be fun. Most of us aren’t going to the Olympics, and we don’t have professional scouts on our doorstep offering to make us millionaires. So have some fun in the gym! Pick some fun movements or workouts, or just take a couple of days to train without worrying about how much weight you lift or how fast you go. Smile and have a good time; grimacing your way through it isn’t going to make it any better. Find a way to remember that training is supposed to be fun.
Going to the gym is also the best way to relieve some stress. If you have been stressed out in other aspects of your life, don’t worry about your performance in the gym that week. Just think of it as going in to blow off some steam. You know that guy or gal at the office who has really been getting under your skin lately . . . do a few sets of heavy lifting thinking about his or her antics. Get sweaty, fall over from exhaustion and suddenly you’ll probably realize that stressing out wasn’t worth the negative energy.
Some of my best workouts come from thinking about people that piss me off. I would like to thank them, but then they probably wouldn’t give me any more motivation. So my quiet “thank you” is that 2 extra rounds I got on my AMRAP or those 5 extra pounds I put up on my bench press. That’s right, I’m saying show some emotion in the gym – LET IT OUT. The other day I stood up with a PR snatch and I was screaming at the top of my lungs like a crazy person. You think I cared in that moment who was watching me…? I immediately apologized to the guy in the gym, and all he said was “that was motivating.” It motivates me to see other people do this too . . . so don’t hold back! When else do you get to let out energy like that? I am sure you’re not screaming with excitement in the office when you finish typing up a report. So do it at the gym where it won’t look quite so weird . . . and it might even motivate someone else to get fired up.
Stop Feeling Sorry for Yourself
Do not walk into a workout feeling sorry for yourself. If you tell yourself a workout is going to suck . . . well, I bet you’re going to be right. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. You have to break through that mental wall that is holding you back. Your body can handle so much more than your mind thinks it can. The second you start to think you need to take a break, commit to 10 more reps, and then decide what you need when you get there . . . then tell yourself again that you can get a couple more reps.
If you do need to take a break, I have always found it easier to take just one breath and then start back into it. The longer you sit there thinking about it the more likely you are to start feeling sorry for yourself, questioning your ability and chipping away at your confidence.
You’re only hurting yourself by taking that long break. Trust me, your workout partners are not going home thinking about what you could or should have done differently . . . but you are. There is nothing worse than leaving a workout with regrets. If you know dam well that you could have pushed harder and performed better it eats you up inside. So take one breath, steel yourself and pick up the barbell . . . break through that WALL! It’s the only way you’re going to get stronger.
Once you get back into a positive mindset and you’ve made training fun again, circle back and tackle those workouts that were causing you such grief. You will probably find that within just a couple of days you’ve pulled yourself out of that training rut.