Had A Bad Day At The Gym?
Today’s workout session was a failure. It was a terrible day at the gym; you couldn’t do the weight or the reps that you could last time. Is something wrong? And how can you stop this from happening again?
Above is an illustration that shows the typical pattern of growth. This kind of pattern can be seen in economics, price markets, relationships, business revenues, learning capabilities, physical improvements, population growth etc. For example, a business that is growing in sales rapidly will not necessarily have a better sales day than the previous one every single day. Some days will be slower than others, even though sales are generally increasing in the long run. Your body works in the same way.
Let's get back to Gym.
We have all had those days, and the good news is that it is completely normal. They say that 80% of your workouts will be the standard, clock-in clock-out routine kind of workout; 10% of your workouts will be one of those amazing, ‘wow factor’ days where you feel like you’ve made a lot of progress in just one session and the remaining 10% of the time you will have a workout that seems to be more of a flop than anything else. If you experience a bad workout once in a while, then you have nothing to worry about. It is a part of training and just like anything else in life, your body works in a cyclical pattern, moving in a certain direction with bumps and turns along the way.
Why do we get these bad days?
There are a variety of reasons that could contribute to the difference between a good workout, a great one and a bad one. For example, these factors could include sleep, stress, mental focus, social distractions, diet (short term or long term), starting a new workout program, using the same program for too long, over training, low blood sugar levels, the kind of music that was playing, dreams you had the last time you were sleeping, mood, arousal, and hormone cycles.
Think about it this way, in two years from now, will the fact that you had a bad day at the gym make a difference? Not really. But what will matter is the fact that you worked through it and didn’t give up.
I’m having these days increasingly often, what could be the issue?
If you are having these days increasingly often, then there could be a determining factor that you need to take care of. Below of a list of the most probable causes, in order from most probable to least:
The most common cause of decreased physical performance is, ironically, too much physical performance. Are you putting so much strain on your body that it is starting to break down? It is beneficial to take a rest day at least once a week, and have an entire week of rest once every 8-10 weeks so that your body can recover and adapt fully. Additionally, working a certain muscle group too often for it to recover between sessions will hinder muscle growth and strength.
You could be training at an intensity that does not stimulate your muscles enough to spur on growth and adaption. Aside from that, you could be working a certain muscle group too long after it has recovered, so that it adapts and then decreases in size and strength because it does not feel the need to stay at a certain size anymore. The body is made for optimal survival, and it will decrease muscle size if it does not feel the need to keep them because muscle costs the body a lot in energy and nutrient resources to grow and maintain. Try to find a good balance between training enough, but not too much.
Diet is also one of the most common reasons for decreased performance or slowed transformation. If your body does not have the building blocks it needs, it will be unable to change. Besides building blocks, it also needs fuel for energy as well. Make sure that your macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, proteins) are right for your physical output and goals. Additionally make sure that you getting the right micronutrients (minerals, amino acids, vitamins, fatty acids, etc.) to keep the body in a healthy equilibrium.
If you have been using the same workout routine for too long, your body will start to adapt and plateau. It is considered optimal to change your program every 3-6 months for the best results. Changes can include exercises done, exercise order, workout split, rep range, intensity, duration, etc.
Most muscle growth happens during sleep. Sleep is the body’s time to grow and recover without interference. If you are not getting enough sleep, then your body does not have the time to change and might break down muscle to fuel its other needs like mental well-being, which it will prioritise over physical transformation.
Studies have shown that listening to the right music has a direct effect on the amount of reps that a person can do. Additionally, men are able to lift more weights when attractive females re around them. This shows how much being in the right mental state can affect your workout.
Exercise is good for stress and those who exercise are better able to cope with stress, but mental stress can have an impact on the body in a negative way, in-turn impacting the body’s ability to lift weight or exercise. Try to make sure that you outside-the-gym life is not stealing from your inside-the-gym life.
Too Much Junk
Expanding on the point above, there could be junk in your life that is hindering you from achieving your goals. These things can include smoking, drinking, late nights, eating habits and other distractions.
Sometimes a bad day is just a bad day. Be proud of the fact that you at least went in and had the perseverance to finish the workout regardless of how you performed. We have all had bad days, but what really matters is whether you stand up and get back to it. STAY STRONG!