Maybe the workout looked easy on paper and mid-way through it becomes a sufferfest. Or maybe the workout looked like a monster on paper and your anxiety skyrocketed. Did your self-belief plummet before you even put on your shoes? Maybe you were feeling like you were crushing it until you looked down and compared your splits to your splits two months ago. You might have even quit mid-way through the workout.
Regardless of the scenario, we all at some point experience tough workouts. Those workouts can be soul-crushing and leave us doubting our potential. Tough workouts occur because of a combination of our body’s ability on a given day, expectations, and inner dialogue. While we can’t change our body’s ability on a given day, we can learn tools that help us embrace suffering. We can learn to complete a workout even on tough days as long as we are healthy.
5 Tips To Get Through A Tough Workout
- Practice Mindfulness – Instead of thinking about the outcome practice staying present in the moment. Experience what you are actually feeling in the moment. Do not the project the feelings of the last minute of the last interval. Anticipating discomfort creates fear, increases perceived discomfort and decreases current effort levels. Try not to compare yourself to the last time you did the workout or to your friends on Strava. Focus on your effort at the moment and try to remove judgment.
- Be Flexible – We enter workouts with an idea about how we want the workout to go. We have a goal pace or effort and we want to hit it. Somedays that comes easily and other days we just don’t have it. Instead of trying to force a pace, practice adjusting your expectations and slowing down or giving yourself a longer break between intervals. Workouts become more difficult when we refuse to deviate from our goals even when our body is saying “no.” Forcing a workout and not being able to complete it has a more negative impact on our psyche than adjusting the workout so that we can finish it.
- Feed Yourself Positive Self-Talk – It’s totally normal when a workout isn’t going well to start the steady stream of self-criticism. Even though it is normal, shame is a terrible motivator. Instead of trying to shame yourself into the performance you want, try extending some self-love and compassion. Reframe your thoughts and call upon mantras of encouragement. If you find it hard to be positive then try to reframe to neutral statements such as “I am doing this.”
- Embrace the Suffering – Workouts will always to some degree be tough, except for a few magical days. What makes a workout fun is that we know that it will be tough and we rise up to the challenge. Instead of worrying and fearing the suffering to come, practice accepting that discomfort is part of the athletic journey. Practice enduring the discomfort and reassuring your brain that you will be just fine.
- Believe! – Regardless, if you are having your best workout ever or your worst, believe that it is another brick in the wall of building your ultimate potential! We often mistakenly believe that we can only reach our true potential by crushing all our workouts but if that is the goal our workouts will crush us. Remind yourself that finishing lack-luster workouts and walking away celebrating your ability to get through builds the mental toughness to take you to the next level. Believe that your toughest workouts are just a reflection of a tough day, not a reflection of your true potential.
Tough workouts are inevitable, they come for us all. Even on our toughest physical days, we can still gain mental strength that moves us closer to our goals. Beating yourself up about a tough workout or quitting undermines the mental endurance and strength you can gain by sticking with it. As your brain adapts to learning to suffer better, your body will follow.