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What to do when your workout doesn't workout

Posted Jun 20 2013 4:55pm

Karel and I have always been active....although I think we had our priorities different when it came to bike riding. Since when did it become uncool to ride your bike without a stuffed animal?

One of the best parts about sharing an active lifestyle with someone else is seeing each other grow in a sport (or with fitness). We all have great workouts now and then but not always are they shared with others.

The other day, Karel had an "off" day on the bike. We did a swim+ bike workout and although he had an amazing workout in the pool, he just had no power in legs on the bike. Rather than try to push through it, I continued on with the workout as planned and Karel did his own thing which involved soft pedaling and a little drafting off my wheel. We all have those days when we feel a little "off" but knowing how to handle those days may be different for all of us. Since Karel and I coach ourselves, it is easy to modify workouts on a whim although making smart choices as athletes is not always easy (hence why it is important to have a coach, even if it is your significant other as we all need someone to tell us when to "rest" and not push through).

So what should you do if your workout is just not working out? Here are a few of my tips as to how to bounce back from an "off" day.

Nutrition
If you are having a nutrition-related "off" day, identify what went wrong. Generally, going long hours without eating, overeating a large portion (or late at night), eating a large amount of processed food or skimping on balanced meals can contribute to feel "off". Certainly, this is why it is so important to address the daily diet when it comes to performance/fitness as food is our fuel.

Sport Nutrition
If you are having a sport-nutrition-related "off" day, address what foods/products are not working for you. Maybe it is the intensity/duration or workout or maybe a food isn't sitting right. Generally, it is recommended to reduce fat/fiber before a workout  to help with digestion and be sure to drink water to promote digestion/absorption of nutrients before and during the workout. Many times, athletes under-fuel during workouts so it is important to recognize the importance of sport nutrition before, during and after workouts when your body is under the most training stress.

Sleep
If there is one area in your life to blame for feeling tired while working out, it is not getting enough restful sleep. Although exercise is important on a daily basis, one should never skimp on sleep just to workout early in the morning (or late at night). Try to create an exercise/training schedule that allows for a restful night of sleep most days a week. For many people, 7-8 hours is the magic number which may mean going to bed a little earlier or cutting a workout short a little in order to get to work on time in the morning.

Stretching/flexibility/strength training
Although stretching and strength training can certainly enhance workouts by encouraging strong muscles to move in their full range of motion, strength training should only enhance your cardio routine. Be sure to allow adequate rest after strength training so that you are not sabotaging good form while training during cardio. Also, make time for stretching post workout and include a dynamic warm-up before working out. Many times, the body just needs to wake up and get the blood flowing so before counting yourself out of a workout, be sure to actively warm-up.

Pump yourself up
A good song, a good quote, a call from a friend/family member. There are many ways to turn an "off" day into a great day. Try to see if you can bring yourself into a positive state of mind before working out as many times we can allow stress, emotions and thoughts to keep us from working out when we all know that we are always one workout away from a great mood.

Modifying workouts
I have a suggestion to everyone in that all you have to do is think small when working out. Whether you are having a hard time getting motivation, nervous about your training workout or feeling tired, just tell yourself that all you have to do is workout/exercise for 10 minutes. If you can at least get yourself started, more often than not you will find yourself working out longer than planned. If you aren't feeling it by 20 minutes, just call it a day or if anything, just go for a walk. Lastly, we all need to know how to make progress with fitness. Many times, saying "I can't" will keep you in the same place. To move yourself forward, how about modifying your workout. If you planned to run, just walk. If your workout called for intervals, reduce the intensity. Make progress, don't aim for perfection.

Keep it fun
Don't forget your goals or reasons for working out. I love to train for triathlons but I really love to exercise. I just love using and moving my body so anytime I am not "feeling it" (which is not that often thanks to a balanced training plan with quality workouts), I just feel grateful that I am moving my body.

Forget the gadgets
Ever see a kid running with a garmin while playing tag? Sometimes you just have to have fun and that means going by perceived exertion. It may be helpful to have gadgets with you to reflect on the workout but don't worry about pace, time, HR, speed, etc. Just enjoy your time out with your body.

Rest and recovery
A massage can be a beautiful thing. Karel and I get massages 2-3 times  a month as part of our pre-hab. It is very important to me that with all the work I do with my body, that I keep it as healthy as possible with recovery and sometimes I can't do that alone. We have amazing sport massage therapists in our life which are worth the money. Other methods of recovery include trigger point, foam rolling, compression, espon salt, compex, sport legs, arnica cream and simple rest and relaxation with a clear mind.

I hope you find these tips helpful. Don't let an "off" day ruin your week. Be appreciative of the progress you have made and keep your eyes on where you are heading. If you are having trouble getting the motivation you need to get started, send me an email. I have pre-built run/tri plans available if you need something to help you stay consistent or we can discuss your missing link in your diet/fitness routine.

Happy training/exercising.


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