No matter what shape you’re in, or even how often you hit the gym, there will be days when you feel like you just can’t push anymore — the weights feel really heavy, you can’t get into the groove or you’re just plain hurting.
Hey, it happens. But how should you handle it? Give in and try again tomorrow, or push through, getting in a workout regardless?
When to push through
Perhaps the most important factor in this dilemma is to listen to your body. Monitoring everyday aches and knowing the difference between them and more serious twinges or pains is key. If you’re indeed just struggling, but not hurt, what can you do?
Sports psychologist Dr Caroline Silby, author of Games Girls Play: Understanding and Guiding Young Female Athletes (St. Martin’s Press, 2001) suggests that on the days you’re feeling overwhelmed by your workout, you can turn the obstacle into a challenge by testing how much you can get accomplished when feeling out of your rhythm.
“You almost have to view these days as separate workouts from the ones when you are feeling good,” she says. “Eventually, you’ll be able to increase the intensity you put forth on days when you’re feeling lousy and have stellar workouts regardless.”
Tactics: boosting your mind
As active women know, mental strength is just as important as physical strength when it comes to training consistently. What mental techniques can you implement to push through the not-so-stellar days? Dr Silby suggests putting appropriate filters on the 'noise' in your head. For instance, she says, if you’re running on the treadmill, be sure to do things that help you to stay loose, fluid and on your rhythm. Some athletes use a mantra such as 'down' every time their foot hits the ground, while others use motivational self-talk.
NPC bikini competitor and personal trainer Heidi Waselich says that planning out not only her workout but also her whole day helps her develop her plan of action for the gym. For her, the mental side of training is 80 per cent of the battle. “Once my plan is set, I try to take at least 10 minutes in the morning to meditate (I use the app Calm) or take myself through a short yoga flow; both always help clear my headspace and bring me a sense of peace to carry with me through the day,” she says.
Dr Silby also recommends knowing what’s important. “Maybe you feel tired or frustrated,” she says. “Now what? It’s up to you to process this information and figure out if it’s really important. Most often, you can feel tired or frustrated and have everything you need to be successful. So carry on.”
But if you just can’t break through the block, don’t throw in the towel completely. Some exercise is better than none at all, and don’t beat yourself up. Remember that fitness is a lifelong journey. Identify why your workout didn’t go according to plan and get back to said plan tomorrow — even superwomen have down days!
If your planned strength workout is causing more grief than it’s worth, it might be time for plan B. Remember, something is better than nothing. Try one of the activities below to reset your mind for tomorrow. Who knows, maybe afterward you’ll be ready to give that workout another go.
- A long stretch session
- A ride on the bike with new music blasting
- A handful of yoga flows
- A walk outside