Dealing with bad days
The peaks and troughs that constitute the rollercoaster ride of life will always be there. What makes all the difference is how we ride them. The wisest of all are those who embrace the ride with dignity and grace, wherever it may lead. Forgive me for getting a little deep so early on a Sunday morning, but a touch of philosophy is sometimes just what the doctor ordered when it comes to dealing with the disappointment and frustration brought on by bad days.
A bad day just has the tendency of unraveling when you least expect, without warning. It could be stress at work, problems at home, or even the smallest most insignificant things like someone cutting in front of you in traffic, being given the wrong change in a shop, or spilling your coffee down your shirt. These can all add up to deliver a crippling blow to your mood.
Accepting and coping with such realities within the scope of your daily life is perhaps something a psychologist or spiritual mentor might assist you with, but when it starts to interfere with your workouts, that’s where I step in.
Stress, bad moods, anger, or even mild illness will all wreak havoc with your training at some time or other, so when these gremlins rear their ugly heads on training days, how will you greet them?
If you sense before you even get to the gym that the stuff in your head is going to turn out to be a problem, then you can prepare for it. If your thoughts carry anxiety, anger, or pain, there’s no need to consume all your energy battling them head on, but don’t let them consume you either.
You are human; incessant thinking and the associated emotions generated are just a natural part of who you are. Let the pesky thoughts pass through, but try not to associate closely with them and remember that the real you lies deeper.
If you had to imagine you were a lake, remember that storms raging above the surface might cause rough conditions on the surface, but the very deepest waters may still remain calm. Those silly little gremlins can’t actually hurt you anyway, so dig deeper and step into the gym with clarity and conviction.
All sound a bit like mumbo jumbo? If you cannot visualise your own mind in this way, then try this little ritual I’ve always found useful.
When changing your clothes in preparation for your session, take your time and make a little ritual out of it. With every garment of clothing you take off from your normal everyday clothes, shed also a bothersome problem that also exists in your normal everyday routine. When you’ve taken off your major garments of clothes and the problems you link to them, start putting on your workout clothes. With them also put on confidence, mental focus, and a positive attitude, for these will serve you far more productively during the job at hand.
If these mindfulness techniques fail you, and you still don’t feel right when beginning your workout, then it’s time to make adjustments. Fumbling through a workout half-heartedly will only increase your risks of overtraining or injury, so it’s time to pull back and train smart. If you’re running, cycling or performing some other form of pure cardiovascular exercise, then reduce the planned duration or intensity of your session depending on how bad you feel, or in other words, slow down or reduce the distance.
There’s nothing wrong in simply readjusting your targets, so don’t feel like you’re giving up or failing. Live to fight another day, be wise and know that simple adjustments will allow you to come back stronger when your body is good and ready.
If you’re lifting weights for strength, pushing hard on bad days will send you on a first class ticket straight to the physiotherapist’s clinic. If you normally lift heavy, bad days are the perfect opportunity to work on technique. Lower the weight by half, and concentrate on form, tempo, or both. Also cut the planned volume in half, so your workout is ultimately half as long.
If you lift weights to build muscle, bad days are not the time to stress big muscle groups or to work the large compound movements like squats, bench presses or deadlifts. Pick instead smaller muscles that call for easier exercises that do not strain your general system as one unit. Concentrate on form and isolation of target muscle groups. If your workout consists of a bit of everything, incorporate all of the above to the various components of your workout.
If bad days happen most of the time, then something is most definitely wrong with your programme. You may be training too much, training for the wrong reasons, or pursuing a type of training that simply doesn’t suit you. It’s time to sit down and seriously re-evaluate your exercise regimen. A chat with a trusted fitness instructor or personal trainer would be extremely valuable at this point.
If these bad days happen about once a week, that’s still way too much, and you might need to revisit the drawing board and come up with a new programme. If bad days happen only once in a while, like once or twice per month, this is quite normal, and just remember to ride the ups and downs with dignity and grace.
When the problem is in your head, remember that so is the solution.