The only workout you regret is the one you didn’t do.
This platitude is used as a motivation tool to push people to workout even when they don’t want to, that’s also dripping in privilege and condescension. And yes, sometimes the sessions you do when you don’t really feel like it end up making you feel amazing and you’re so glad you went.
But it’s also possible that it’s not the case.
Workouts where I miss important events, where I pushed through when I was so fatigued that I got injured because I wasn’t recovered properly, or where my head wasn’t in it and I missed lifts and ended up feeling shit about training in general, are all workouts I regret.
So what should you do when you’re really not feeling like training but you still want to move towards your training goals?
1. Give yourself 5 minutes
Commit to training for 5 minutes. Go to the gym, and warm up. As you start going through the movements you’ll be training for the day, think about how you feel and how the movements feel. If after five minutes, you get in the groove, keep going. But if you’re not feeling any better, move on to step two here.
2. Modify your session
This is where flexibility in your training is important. If you have a heavy strength session programmed and every cell in your body is screaming at you, try doing a lighter session. Or do some bodyweight movements or even go for a walk. Just because some movement is good, doesn’t mean more is better. Unless you’re preparing for an important comp and you absolutely have to do that session on that day, there is absolutely no harm in modifying your session.
Sometimes when I can’t make a decision, I get someone to pick for me and how I feel when they make that decision, tells me how I really feel about my options and it makes it clear what my decision should be.
When you weigh up the options of training versus having the day off, how do you feel? One time I did this and I told myself I was going to train, I almost immediately burst into tears because I was so fatigued that the thought of training was too much for me. Clearly my decision that day needed to be rest (and it was) (also, I would encourage you to take a rest day long before you get to the point of crying over the thought of training). Taking a rest day is not the same as abandoning your goals. Adequate rest allows you to recover properly, get the most out of your sessions, and keep up your enthusiasm for training.
If you keep forcing yourself to do sessions you really absolutely DO NOT WANT to, you will be more likely to burn yourself out and develop a serious dislike for training altogether. We’re training for the long-term and so we need to take a long-term mindset. In the long-term, will this missed or modified session make a significant difference? Most likely not. However, an injury or a disdain for training sustained by pushing through when you didn’t want to has the potential to have a greater negative impact on your long-term training.