I had a new client join recently who told me she has always had a love/hate relationship with exercise. I know the feeling. When you're in the zone and getting results, you can't wait for your next gym fix then only moments later, everything seems so much harder and it feels like you're back at square one. It's a real confidence blow when this happens and it can really kill motivation so why is it that some days your workout just plain sucks?!
The reality is that your workout sessions are influenced by things that are out of your control. Even if you have the motivation to exercise, there are many other factors that can make or break your performance in the gym and some days just won't be your day.
It's important to listen to your body as there is usually a reason you can't lift the extra 5kg you muscled up with ease the week before. Not every workout will be your best one and that's ok but it's good to know why this happens so you can be better prepared for the next time or at least for peace of mind...
1. You didn't rest long enough between workouts. Recovery is SO important for muscle growth and injury prevention. Overtraining your muscles is counterintuitive to getting stronger because it's during the recovery phase that our muscles repair and grow thicker. If you've performed heavy squats one day and the following day you train the same muscle group again, not only will you feel fatigued and weak but you'll also prevent adequate recovery for muscle growth. Did I just tell you to exercise less? I might have ;-) The easiest way to avoid overtraining is to train different muscles groups on consecutive days (e.g legs on Monday, arms on Tuesday) so you allow enough recovery in between workouts to get the most benefit from all your hard work.
2. You didn't eat enough of the right foods.
When a client walks into the gym feeling flat, I always ask what they've eaten that day. Food is our fuel so if you're eating a poor diet or have come off the back of a big, sugary weekend then you're basically using E10 instead of premium and expecting it to have the same effect. Some days this is unavoidable and that's fine but don't expect to go to the gym and lift like a boss if you've had a packet of chips and a frozen coke for breakfast. Yes I have had a client say that to me! Not eating enough will also affect your ability to perform well in the gym. Try eating half a banana or a protein shake 1-2 hours before your workout if you don't feel as though you have enough energy when you exercise.
3. You haven't been sleeping well.
I talk a lot about sleep but it does affect muscle recovery, food choices and motivation sooooooo it is kind of a big deal. Fatigue not only makes you feel weak but it can leave you prone to injury because if you aren't alert, you are more likely to lose form during an exercise. If you haven't been sleeping well then be aware of that and hit the gym at times of the day when you have more energy (maybe an hour after a coffee for example). If poor sleep is a consistent problem for you, it might be worth making some small lifestyle changes or heading to a sleep clinic to find out what's going on. Long term sleep deprivation will not only affect your training but it can also have a detrimental affect on other aspects of your life.
4. You are hormonally challenged a.k.a PMS!
Exercise is proven to help relieve symptoms of Premenstrual syndrome(PMS) but that doesn't mean you need to do jumping lunges and burpees to get those benefits. If you are like me and feel significant changes in mind and body from hormonal fluctuations, you may want to lighten the load during that time of the month. Try a lower intensity cardio workout or something like yoga so you're still getting the physical and mental benefits of exercise without causing more stress on your body.
5. You are feeling stressed.
Exercise and stress are besties. Working out can clear your mind and give you a break but there are different types of stress and sometimes a high intensity workout may not be what you need. A boxing class could be perfect if you're stressed over a deadline but if you suffer from chronic stress and your body is pumping adrenaline and cortisol like crazy, high intensity exercise could actually make you feel worse! Remember that exercise ranges from a walk along the beach to a Crossfit session so if you are stressed out, tired and smashing coffees like tic tacs, choose a lower intensity option and you'll get more benefit from it.
The most important thing is to stay consistent. Stress, fatigue, hormonal changes and poor sleep can be out of your control but more often than not, exercise will make you feel better. Exercising consistently is important to staying onboard the fitness wagon so just do something and keep the momentum going. Allow yourself to fluctuate with the intensity of your workouts and learn when to push and when to take a step back. When I'm feeling lazy, I push myself because I know that's what I need but when I'm feeling fatigued, I take it easy on myself so I don't get injured. It's about self preservation, right?
Sometimes exercise is more a mental accomplishment than a physical one. It can be a time to get away from work, the kids, the pantry or whatever it is that exercise does for you. Choose the step ups over the box jumps, choose the lighter dumbbells, choose whatever you need to make sure your body will be ready to fight another day.
Here's to a happy and healthy you,