First let's talk about WHY this happens, then let's talk about what to do next.
No matter where we are with our fitness, there are simply going to be days where we're feeling "off". We could be dealing with a stressful situation at work and the upcoming meetings and tasks are clouding our brain, or we could be dealing with our period and all the hormones present with that, or we could be nursing a new or old injury. Hell, we could be simply dealing with a not so sound sleep, or a cranky neck from resting on it wrong the previous night.
I often speak with my distance coaching clients who some days, have finished a workout and felt like they BARELY squeaked it out but then other days, they CRUSHED their workout and feel like they could take on the world.
It's normal and happens to the very best athletes: we all of off days.
I had a personal experience with this situation this morning when I began my deadlift day for my Power Lifting training. Warm-up sets felt great, so I did what I normally do and started adding some more weight to the bar to build up to my working weight for the workout. THAT'S WHEN THE BUS CAME TO A SCREECHING HALT.
Lately, I've been paying attention to a small injury that creates some irritation in my left hip so, as I added weight, before I even began the pul in my "sumo stance", I could feel my hip saying "Not today!". So, based on this biofeedback, I switched up my style and tried to pull conventional stance. NOPE.
Commence the swirling thoughts: "What's wrong with me?", "I've been dealing with this injury for so long!", "I'm going to get behind with my training!". Blah-blah-blah-blah.
There's a whole host of reasons why I wanted this workout to happen today, the main reason being that I have a busy travel week ahead so I scheduled this workout, I have all the equipment here, let's just get it done, right?
Nope Jess, not happening.
First: Take a second.
When/if this happens to you - just breathe. Yes, it feels disorienting, frustrating and possibly a little weak to not be meeting your original expectations for your workout, but sitting with the reality of where your mind and body are for a minute can go a long way.
It seems a little woo-woo but in these moments, we can listen to what our body is trying to tell us - or we can force it and risk injury or further frustration. I suggest finding an open space and getting into some deep stretches or mobility work where you can practice some deep, rhythmic breathing....filling the lungs completely (360 degrees) and exhaling all the air out slowly. This, not only serves to calm the mind but will enable you to relax into deep, productive stretches.
Second: Take on the all-or-"something" mindset.
All-or-nothing thinking leads us to one place when we're faced with a workout we're just not feeling anymore. That place is nowhere. I don't know one person who would feel empowered walking out of the gym, having completely abandoned the idea of achieving "something" physical that day. While, yes, another alternative is to sit in the sauna and meditate a bit (great for stress reduction), let's not abandon the workout completely if we don't have to.
Third: Apply the one-move comeback.
While any given workout in a training program might call for 4 or 5, all the way up to 12-15, stretches/exercises in each workout, the key to switching from an all-or-nothing to an all-or-something mindset lies in simplicity. Make it easy on yourself to re-engage and get moving.
Today, I chose a metabolic circuit on my stationary bike in my gym. I rolled the bike out from the wall, hopped on and got to work. For me, I needed the dopamine release of a good sweat so a quick 10 minute HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout on my bike was the perfect solution to ease me out of frustration and back into action. (If you choose this type of workout, crank up your resistance and push as hard and fast as possible for 30-45 seconds, rest nice and easy at no resistance for the same amount of time and continue for 10 minutes).
An alternative to a machine might be to hit the road for some sprints with walking segments in between or to choose your favorite hybrid move, like a heavy dumbbell-squat press and complete HIIT intervals, working for one minute, resting for minute, for a total of 10 minutes. Simple and effective.
Fourth (and most important): Don't take it personally!
Simply put, we all have good days and bad days and a simple restorative sleep could bridge the gap between the two. There may not be a big, deep seated reason why your workout isn't in the cards for you today. Recognize the power in saving the workout by doing "something" and walk of the gym feeling empowered in your ability to take action, even when you felt anything but powerful in the moment.