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How to Bounce Back From Bad Training Days

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Recently, Bryce Lewis, an internationally acclaimed powerlifter posted a photo on his Instagram of a whiteboard he brings to the gym that details his training goals, along with mantra-like statements regarding his training mentality. You can find this post here.

The statement “training trends, not training days” has stuck in my brain ever since.

We can all relate to showing up to the gym, ready to take on your workout, only to end up grinding through reps, or worse, missing lifts entirely. It’s tough not to feel defeated, but in the grand scheme of things, that workout doesn’t really matter. What matters is how you choose to handle it. Even high-level athletes have bad days, meet preps and competitions, but being able to take the bad with the good is what sets them apart.

If we focus on the small picture when our training isn't going well, it’s difficult not to get down on yourself, which in turn will make your progress worse than the lackluster workout.

Here’s why:

We feel defeated before we finish the session.
If halfway through a workout, we start playing a tape in our head that we’re not going to hit the programmed numbers, everything is going to feel heavy; this workout is a waste, then we’re quitting before we even get started.

What to do instead:
Remind yourself that going to the gym and accumulating volume, time under the bar or working on a skill puts you miles ahead of yourself compared to mentally calling it quits halfway through. Ask yourself what you can gain from this workout, and make it happen.

We will struggle to approach that training day or exercise with confidence in the future.
Having a poor attitude about a training session not only takes away from the potential for that workout but if you resign yourself to ‘sucking at ____’ the next time it’s programmed you won’t approach it with confidence.

What to do instead:
We know that performance has a lot to do with your mental state, so being able to brush it off is crucial. Remind yourself that this is an off day, you have hours of training under your belt and tons of successful sessions that disprove this thought. Get excited for a new opportunity to approach the movement and grow from the last session.

We will create mental stress and doubt.
Our brains can only focus on so much at once. If after a few rough lifts your mind begins to flood with stress or doubt, then that doesn’t leave a lot of room to remember things that are ACTUALLY important, like technical cues.

What to do instead:
Strip it down and work back up. Take a lighter weight for a few reps, and run through your lifting cues. Make sure that you’re bracing effectively, activating the parts of your body that you need to. Move effectively first, then work up to your prescribed weights focusing on your cues.

The bottom line is that progress is not defined by one day in the gym or even a week, or a month. Chances are you are hoping to be in whatever your chosen sport is for the long haul so these roadbumps are very small in the grand scheme of things. Instead, focus on trends over time to determine if you are progressing.

What helps you push through a hard training session and still come out with a constructive attitude?

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Posted by Team WAG
Working Against Gravity was established in 2014. Our nutrition coaches work one-on-one with clients to build custom programs that fit their needs. Our goal is to help each client discover a program that makes sense for them and produces lasting results, helping them develop a positive relationship with food—and themselves—along the way.

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