Sometimes your workouts suck.
Not just in the usual “this is hard work” kinda way, but in the “I feel like doing anything BUT this” kinda way.
I’ve been there, I’m sure you have – heck, everyone experiences this every now and again. Sometimes working out isn’t much fun and instead feels a lot like a chore.
So what should you do when this happens?
First, you need to determine if this is the typical lack of motivation that happens to everyone now and then; or a sign of a bigger issue.
If you have good workouts where you feel energized most of the time, then a bad workout here and there probably isn’t a big deal. When that is happening, just make sure you’re putting in the work and doing what you can, knowing that the next workout will likely be better.
Easy enough, right?
But what about the times when you seem to have horrible workouts repeatedly? When you go a week… or longer with very little motivation to train? When that starts to happen, something bigger is going on that you need to address.
Here are some ways you can do that:
SWITCH THINGS UP, AND FIND A WORKOUT YOU KNOW YOU WILL CRUSH.
Everyone has certain exercises or style of workouts that they love. Find yours and do that for a few weeks. For me, that’s a workout consisting of mostly bodyweight exercises done circuit style with short rest periods (like 45 seconds or less). When you do this, you can get a great workout in less than 45 minutes, easy.
So I may do something like this:
1a) Pullup x AMRAP (staying shy of muscular failure)
1b) Single Leg Deadlift x 6-8
1c) Handstand Pushup x AMRAP (staying shy of muscular failure)
1d) L-sit on rings
-rest 30-45 seconds between exercises. Complete entire circuit 3-4 times.
The type of workouts you enjoy most may be completely different, but this is what works for me. This is what I know I will be able to do and enjoy even if I have very little motivation.
DO SOMETHING FUN THAT MAKES YOU SWEAT.
Go for a hike or a walk with your wife, kids, or friends. Do something – anything – active that gets you outside for 45-60 minutes. I like to go to the park and play with my kids. I chase them around, climb on stuff, go down the slides, throw in some pullups on the monkey bars and just have a good time.
It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as you enjoy it and it gets you outside
TAKE A WEEK OFF.
If you’ve been working out hard for 6+ months without any kind of break, the best thing for your body may be taking some time off from any kind of organized weight training.
Over the past two years, when my life has been more busy and stressful than ever (not all bad stress, but stress none-the-less), I’ve found that taking a week off 2-3 times per year is necessary for me to perform at a high level when I am in the gym and avoid burnout.
WHEN TO TAKE A BREAK – AND WHEN TO PUSH THROUGH THE DISCOMFORT
Now, there’s one other thing that needs to be brought up when we start talking about how to overcome a training slump: knowing when you need to change things up and do something different and when you just need to step up and do the work, even though you don’t feel like it.
So what’s the answer? Honestly, there isn’t a great one. There isn’t an easy “test” that you can use to know, for sure, whether you should back off or push forward.
If you experience low motivation for working out for weeks on end, something needs to change. Continuing to push harder isn’t the answer, and doing so will probably leave you injured or even more exhausted. Instead, you should probably do one of the three things I listed above.
But what about those random workouts, here and there, where you just don’t feel it?
Some days you need to hate the weights. Some days you need to remind the weights – and yourself – who the hell you are.
You need to remind your inner villain (that inner voice that wants to hold you back and keep you “average”), that you’re the guy who shows up when he doesn’t feel like it.
You’re the dude who isn’t afraid to feel a little bit of discomfort now, for a better payoff later.
During my workout yesterday morning, I wasn’t feeling it. I was supposed to do deadlifts, and I was struggling to find the motivation to do the warmup, much less heavy deadlifts. The voice in my head was pushing me to back off – maybe skip the deadlifts and just do something a little easier today. To top things off, I had a horrible headache that wouldn’t seem to go away.
But you know what? I decided to take a stand.
I started thinking about you, and how there’s no way I can feel okay about telling you to push forward when things get tough if I don’t have the guts to do it myself.
I’ve always been taught that true leaders lead from the front. Great leaders don’t just say the right things, they actually follow through and do it.
So I decided to look past the searing pain in my head – past the voice in my head telling me to “take it easy.” I loaded up the bar, focused on my breathing, and pulled.
Not only did I lift more than I have in a while, my headache disappeared. Weird, right?
Sometimes the reasons we want to use so that we don’t have to do things we don’t want to aren’t as valid as we want to think.
That’s why I forced myself to stopped making excuses and just put in the work. Because sometimes that’s what needs to be done.