Bad Workout Success

What To Do When You Have A Crappy Workout


Have you ever had one of those workouts that leaves you curled up in the fetal positioning questioning your own existence? Or maybe wondering “what the heck is happening to me??” Every lift feels like an all out war with gravity or you feel like you’re running through quicksand and your body feels like it’s just given up.

Of course you have. We all have. It doesn’t happen often (hopefully), but when it does, it’s a real bummer and leaves us feeling pretty down and out.

I had a workout like that yesterday. It called for 4 sets of 2, 1, 1 clusters of deadlifts – meaning each set I would do 2 reps, rest for 10-15 seconds, do 1 rep, rest for 10-15 seconds and do 1 more rep. Pretty taxing stuff, but a great tool for getting strong.

I haven’t sumo deadlifted off the ground in over a year, but I’ve been working diligently at getting myself back there and have been feeling pretty confident about my progress. So, starting a new phase of my program this week, you can imagine I was pretty pumped that this would be THE month I get my deadlift totally back on track.

I had an awesome breakfast, I slept well, I put on my favorite Lulu’s and I had numbers in my mind for my sets and I was ready to crush ‘em.


I couldn’t get my tension, my form and grip felt way off, I couldn’t find focus and my warm up sets felt far from smooth. But I kept on truckin’, chalking it up to just not finding my groove yet.

Well, I never did find my groove. I bombed my first set and ended up having to drop my weight down a full 25lbs because I inevitably fried myself trying to push a weight that I felt like I “should” be doing.

Talk about feeling defeated.

bad workout dl face

I mean, my face says it all.

As I moved on through the rest of my workout, I tried not to pay attention to the voice in my head taunting me with the memory of deadlifting over 2x my body weight 2 month ago (off plates) and questioning why the heck a little over 1.5x was SO hard today. This wasn’t how this session was supposed to go! Where did my precious muscles go?!

One thing I’ve learned through years of coaching others, training and competing in powerlifting and just lifting in general is that progress, whether we are talking about strength, overall performance or body composition, is never linear. There are going to be shitty days and setbacks.

bad workout success

Some days you leave a trail of fire blazing in your wake in the gym, other days you’re just in the dumps. Some days you pile numbers on to all of your lifts, you sprint like a gazelle and you have the mobility of a gymnast, other days you’re lucky you put your underwear on the right way.

You stomp your feet, you spit a few f bombs, you feel like all of your hard work came crashing down and there’s no good reason for any of this to happen. But there totally is.

You are human.

And being human comes with fluctuations in our sleep and hormones, emotional and life stress, being effected by what we eat, or don’t eat, our previous training sessions, how recovered we are or aren’t, and hundreds of other factors.

Our bodies react to all of these influences or “inputs” and they innately effect our “outputs”.

You’re not getting weaker or slower or becoming less capable. You’re just being human. Your strength, skills and hard work are still in you. You’re still better than when you started.

So really, why even waste energy mulling it over? It’s just one workout. One blip in the big picture.

I know, lame "fitspo", but it's true.

I know, lame “fitspo”, but it’s true.

Remember why you’re doing this.

You’re in the gym to become the best version of yourself. To cultivate strength, health and empowerment. To move better and feel better. Beating yourself up for a not so hot day isn’t empowering or healthy, nor is it a way to build up your strength. It only guards our ego.

Perfection doesn’t exist. We are going to fuck up and have less than perfect days and workouts and its okay! Actually, it’s really okay.**

According to Dr. Brene Brown, perfection isn’t actually a positive trait and it is not synonymous with healthy striving and self-improvement. Not to mention, it doesn’t actually exist (phew!). Therefore, striving for it can hamper our success, cause a lot of discouraging feelings and ultimately paralyze us from progressing forward.

Letting go of our “black and white” perfectionist thoughts can be pretty scary, but it makes room for more compassionate thoughts. Try being kinder and less judgmental of yourself when bad workouts happen – your worth as a person is not connected to your performance or how much weight you can or can’t lift. Don’t confuse who you are with the results that you do or don’t produce on any particular day when you are giving your best regardless.

Progress doesn’t exist on a linear scale. Again, some days you’ll be able to do more, some days you’ll be able to do less. That’s just how it is. As long as you show up, embrace this and commit to giving your utmost best effort – whatever it is relevant to that day, that’s all that matters. And you will make progress. Do what you can where you are and with what you have. Simple as that.

Quit “shoulding” yourself. Rather than pouring your vigor into the “supposed to be’s”, “should be’s” and other things that are out of your control, put that energy into getting back into your power.   Be grateful for your opportunity to chase your strength, improve yourself inside and out and simply move your body on the daily. That’s some rad shit! Our brains are hardwired to always seek out the negative – it’s up to us to alter that and seek the good instead.

It’s just one workout. You will have plenty more. Just keep your eye on the prize and remember how far you’ve come.

Things don’t always go the way we expect them to, no matter how hard we work or how consistent and well-rehearsed we are. That’s just life, and if we can’t accept that and go with the flow, we’re going to have a pretty shitty ride 🙂


bad workout thumbs down

**The only time it’s not okay, is when these days start happening more often than not. Then it may be a time to take a deeper look at your recovery and if your workouts are taking more out of you than they are giving you.


Questions? Need help? Drop me a line!

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