I usually look forward to my training. My workouts are my time to focus and get out of my head. I enjoy the alone time and the chance to work toward goals that excite me. Whereas some people dread their workouts, my training sessions are usually the highlight of my day.
But for some reason, all week, I’ve caught myself trying to talk myself out of training. In fact, I haven’t felt like doing much of anything at all. I haven’t felt this unmotivated in a long time.
I’ve tried all the tricks.
I’ve pre-planned my workouts ahead of time so that I don’t have to think or make decisions during my actual workout.
I’ve started each workout slowly, not rushing into anything difficult right away. I’ve given myself permission to work more on fun skills (for me, this means martial arts, handstands, and strength training) than to do hard things like sprints and pull-ups, and plyometrics. I’ve shot hoops instead of going running; gone for a leisurely bike ride or swim instead of doing a structured HIIT workout. I’ve aimed for maintenance over gains, pretty good over perfection.
All week, I’ve reminded myself of my long-term goals and my deeper “why” behind why I’m training. A major one of these is my desire to keep learning and growing throughout my life and inspire others to do the same. Others include mood stability, brain health and optimization, long-term physical and mental health, and feeling like I’m working toward my potential as an athlete and human being.
Despite my attempts to trick myself into having a great workout, it just hasn’t been happening this week. My body has felt heavy, my muscles tight. My mind, usually completely focused on my training, won’t stop wandering no matter how many times I try to snap it back into focus.
Of course, it’s unrealistic to think we can crush every single workout. Sure, some days are going to feel amazing. On those days, if you’re like me, you feel unstoppable, on top of the world.
Other days are going to feel just mediocre. You may still be trying your best, but you know you could do better. You’re nowhere near that feeling of being in the zone.
And some days are going to feel actually bad. You may feel clumsy and unfocused like I have all week. More than one bad day in a row may cause you to feel frustrated and stuck like you’re going backward instead of making forward progress.
Olympic runner Alexi Pappas talks about this up and down cycle in her book Bravey, simplifying this process into what her coach calls the rule of thirds:
“When you’re chasing a big goal, you’re supposed to feel good a third of the time, okay a third of the time, and crappy a third of the time. If the ratio is off and you feel good all the time, then you’re not pushing yourself enough. Likewise, if you feel bad all the time, then you might be fatigued and need to dial things back.”
Reframing the process in this way helps remind you that the bad days aren’t really bad in the long run. The okay days, the crappy days — they’re part of the process. They mean you’re pushing yourself to grow. Learn to expect them and don’t freak out when they happen.
What really matters is not that you feel like you’ve crushed every single workout, but that you keep showing up, even on those days when you don’t want to.
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