Last week, I struggled hard – mood dips, low energy, and just bad vibes overall. In short, I was not pleasant to be around. I can’t pinpoint a specific catalyst that put me in said mood; no change in routine, no work annoyances, no change in diet or disruption of sleep. In fact, I started turning my phone on airplane mode at 9:30 pm and read for an hour to help me ease into sleep.
I slept fine. I woke up a few times throughout the night but managed to get the full 7-8 hours that my body and mind needs to operate efficiently.
I was in a sour mood for at least 3 days last week and it was in short, very shitty.
Over the years, I’ve had these days. They’ll surface here and there, completely unannounced, and ruin my whole week. The longest streak of bad days lasted over a week back in 2018. Even though I do know they’ll eventually come down the pipe, I still hate them. They hinder my game and throw me off balance – and this isn’t just in my workouts. Think of the most unenjoyable person to be around and that’s me, on steroids.
For those that know me, I’m an extreme person. I go into life full throttle. I usually titillate between ease of character and being a giant bitch. If I’m PMS’ing, don’t even bother communicating with me. Actually, don’t even look at me because you may turn to stone.
When life feels tepid and motivation lacks, I need to figure out ways to deal with it. Despite my crabby nature, life keeps on keeping on. I still have tasks at hand, workout commitments, and items I need to accomplish. In this post, I’ll outline some ways I’ve been able to stick to my workout commitments in the face of lagging motivation.
However, before diving into these strategies, let’s tackle the overhead first….
Why These Days Are Important
Aside from the fact that bad days are the WORST, they’re necessary. I know, I just spent the last 400 words complaining about bad days so why do I think they’re important?
My meditation practice has taught me that in order to feel happiness, you need to experience negative emotions. Otherwise, you wouldn’t know what happiness actually felt like; we would just experience one long, steady-state emotion. You need the negative and positive, the yin and the yang for equilibrium.
The key here is to let go of those negative emotions as quickly as possible – feel them fully, acknowledge their presence, and then let them pass. In Michael A. Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul, he explains that “ninety-nine percent of your thoughts are a complete waste of time. They do nothing, but freak you out. ”
We experience suffering when the brain clings to the emotion, whether it be anxiety, fear, stress, anger, etc., and from there, we get sucked into a downward spiral. The sooner we can let go, the sooner we can feel inner calm; a blissful state we all crave.
I know this may sound like a buffet of pseudoscience, but I guess the Cole’s Notes version of what I’m trying to say is that we need to have bad days in order to be grateful for the good. It’s the bad days that build our self-discipline and exhorts our will power, which inevitability builds our character.
Take Action as Quickly as Possible
On the days where we really don’t feel like doing anything productive, we need to shut off our minds as quickly as possible and take action. I must admit, I have gotten quite good (from practice) at overcoming this voice, but the saboteur still lingers – trying to sink me in my comfort zone. If I wake up feeling groggy, sore and grumpy, I know I need to get out the door as quickly as possible. My mind immediately begins chattering away, trying to convince me to head back to bed and try again tomorrow.
I’ve experimented with routines and habits to help me stick to my workout commitments over the years, but the one ritual that’s held strong is laying out my gym clothes and having my coffee ready to go in advance. These two simple steps have really eased my morning routine, allowing me to get going right when I jump out of bed. Even though I’m a morning person, I’m grumpy AF until I have my coffee – something I feel a lot of us can relate to. I need at least an hour upon waking up to drink my coffee, read and do some writing before hitting the gym.
Mix it Up
Something as small as changing up the order of my routine has surprisingly had a positive impact on my workout and on the bad days, makes it slightly more tolerable. The order of my routine is as follows: strength training, run, and then a cooldown on the stationary bike. I try to get the hardest part of the workout done first. Akin to waking up and needing an hour to get my mind ready to workout, sometimes I need to warm my body up with some light exercise to get me going.
For example, I’ll start with the bike, followed by strength training, and then round off my workout with a run. OR I’ll do half my run on the treadmill and half outdoors. Rarely, but on occasion, I’ll break up my workout into two flights – doing strength in the morning and following up with a run later in the afternoon. I’ve also sometimes had naps in between my strength and cardio sessions. Changing up your playlist, running outdoors vs. indoors, listening to a new audiobook or podcast and mixing up the running route can make the workout much more enjoyable. Regardless of the bad days, I still try to incorporate variety to avoid monotony.
The point I’m trying to drive home is that mixing up the order of your workout can make it more digestible and enjoyable.
Shorten Your Workout
I try to avoid shortening my workout whenever possible, but sometimes I need to listen to my body and let myself take it easy. Pushing myself to be great every day is a recipe for disappointment and severe burnout. When my body is vocal and screaming at me to slow down, I answer the call. I will do less exercises in my strength training session, scale back on my mileage or running pace or I’ll simply push my strength training session to a different day altogether.
Trying to avoid sounding too redundant, but it is so important to listen to your body. I would never have been able to keep up my 1,070 day consecutive running streak if I wasn’t able to intently listen to my body; slowing down on the days where my body needs rest and taking the time to stretch and recover after endurance races.
Practice Self Compassion
It’s easy to be hard on ourselves when we feel like we’re worthless and lazy. However, we need to take a step back from what our mind is telling us and realize that we’re only human. Getting down on yourself is all too familiar. Journaling has not only been a cathartic practice, but it has also helped me process and deal with any thoughts of negativity.
I’ve often fallen into the trap of comparing myself to other people (and still do). It’s hard not to when social media (aka the highlight reel of life) is throwing everyone’s accomplishments in our faces constantly. One of the self-deprecating thoughts that frequents my mind often is if I can’t be the best, then why bother?
Avoid taking everyone’s highlight reel at face value. Every single person on this earth experiences bad days – don’t listen to Tina with the plant-based diet that’s always discussing how her life is perfectly filled with meditation, love and laughter. Seriously, fuck off, Tina. It’s important that we all show up for the day regardless of how we feel – even doing that is a win.
We all have bad days. Maybe something happened at work, you had an argument with your partner, you missed the train or perhaps you just woke up in a shit mood with no explanation. Although these occurrences prove to weigh heavy on your mood, I often feel significantly better once I force myself to get up and moving with a workout…even it that high is only temporary.
Changing up your routine, despite how small that shift it may be, can help make workouts more manageable. Shortening them is okay to do from time to time, but try not to make it a habit to quit when the going gets tough.
Lastly, be kind to yourself (myself included). Know that these days are the most important. Because if you show up, despite feeling like a sack of trash, you’ll build the self-discipline to help you deal with adversity in all facets of life.