Okay, well, maybe not Instagram, but a lot of people post things that don’t show the full picture. I like to post fails from time to time for this reason.
People usually post their PRs, their good sets, their good days. After all, that’s what makes us feel good, right? When people like our positive posts. It’s easy to watch all these people with all their fantastic talent making all of this look so easy and smooth and wonder why it’s more difficult for us, why we don’t measure up. Why am I struggling when so-and-so is PRing every day? Why am I not progressing like what’s-her-face?
But here’s the thing— not every training day is a good day. I promise you, your favorite IG lifter with a million followers fails. And they fail often. They may not admit it, but it’s part of the game. I do not care who they are, not everyone is motivated every day, some days an empty bar feels like 100 lbs., some days your mind is just not in it or it is and your body just isn’t having it.
Just like anything else— there are good days and there are bad days and anyone who tells you otherwise is, sorry I’m not sorry, completely full of crap.
I was recently asked how to power through bad training days and make the most of them. Should you use ammonia? Angry music? Yell a lot? Throw things?
The first thing you need to realize is a bad day is just that. A bad day. It doesn’t mean you suck, it doesn’t mean it’s all over, it doesn’t mean you’re never going to reach that goal. Period. There could be a lot of reasons you’re just not having the day you want. Be honest with yourself— is your mind in the game? Did you sleep last night? Did you eat enough? Are you stressed out with work, family, love life, money, etc. etc.? Have you lost weight? Are you hurt at all? Are you fully recovered? What time of the month is it? Note that none of those things I just asked you had anything to do with being any less strong. Sometimes life affects us and that’s okay, it’s part of being a human. It happens to the best, I promise you. When your coach programs a rep max or heavy single or double or RPE or whatever, it’s the best you have THAT day. And if it’s not your best ever, that’s okay. You’re allowed to be frustrated, you’re allowed to throw your belt and then get over it. You showed up, you’re putting in the work, that’s when it really counts. You’ll be fine.
(Somewhere my coach is reading this and is amazed. Although I don’t always act like it, this entire article is proof I do listen to him. See, Coach?)
Next thing, find what gets you going. Some people do need certain music. Some people need ammonia, some people certain conditions for PR. I would argue that it’s best to avoid getting too attached to any one condition— you cannot always control the music playing at a meet while you’re on the platform, what if you forget your ammonia, what if your coach isn’t there to slap the crap out of you, etc. You can’t always control certain variables so I personally recommend finding things that get you fired up that you can control. For me, I lift best when I’m happy. You’ll find me at a meet laughing, dancing, singing, whatever between lifts. I can dial it in and focus, and immediately before I hit the platform (especially for squats), I’m generally calmer and more focused, and I do enjoy an excellent and forceful back slap. But overall, the happier I am, the better I do. We’re here to have a good time, right?
But for some, aggression is the way to go and that’s also fine. The point is— it doesn’t matter what anyone else says you should do. You don’t need to yell or do whatever the next person does if it doesn’t work for you. What works for your favorite IG lifter, their ritual, their elaborate setups may not be on the money for you— don’t try to be them. That doesn’t lift the weight. I give you permission to do you.
Okay, next— progression. Not everyone’s journey is yours. Only yours is yours. I’ve been guilty of checking out the competitions’ journeys and wondering why I’m not PRing like they are, why I’m not getting better like they are. The reality is, you won’t. You have different genetics, different programs, different bodies. You could be using different supplements. They may have more time in the gym. They may not have the stressful job you have, they may not have kids, they may be eating more, sleeping more, etc. etc. We don’t really know what goes on in everyone’s day-to-day lives. There have been plenty of times I’ve had to cut a training session short to go back to real life and finish the work another time. Does this make me any less than any other lifter? No. Certain things may mean it may take me longer to reach my goals, but I’ll be damned if I don’t reach them.
Your journey is yours. And as long as you’re doing the best you can, nothing else matters.
And finally, being positive. When all else fails, be positive. (Yes, Coach... again... you’re right for the 16,394,762nd time.) I’ve written about this before but just in case you’re new here, a positive mindset is everything. The body follows the mind, so if you don’t think you can do it, chances are you can’t. You need to believe you’ll make the lift. You need to believe you’re strong enough and the work is there. You may not make the lift every time you believe it (see: above where I talk about other factors), but you definitely won’t if you doubt it before you even begin. And if you’re not having a great training session, find something you can do to end it on a good note. Maybe there’s a new accessory movement that really lights up the glutes that make you feel accomplished. Maybe you throw some sled pulls in, your lifts felt heavy but you got some good posterior chain work in that you know will make you stronger next time. Get some good core work in to help bolster that brace next time. Maybe it’s some mobility work or stretching to help you prime your body to kill it next time. Whatever has you leaving with a smile on your face will work.
There are going to bad days. You will fail. It will be hard. You may cry, you may want to throw things.
But if you put in the work, stay patient and trust the process, success will come.