You didn’t have a bad workout. You had a poorly timed workout.
And here we are! Coach Tip Tuesday!!
Raise your hand if you have a busy life. *looks around* Yep, that’s what I thought. Each and every one of us has our hand up in the air.
We ARE all busy. We have jobs. We have families. We have friends. We have responsibilities to SO many people and things. That makes it especially difficult to carve time for ourselves. Often, when we do carve that time, it’s at literally any time of the day that it is possible. While the act of taking time for oneself is a very good and valuable thing, sometimes when it comes to workouts, the very timing of that personal time isn’t optimal in terms of workout success.
I have coached many, many athletes over the years. I have monitored poor workouts and I have monitored great workouts. And what I have observed is this: many times the workouts that athletes classify as “bad” workouts actually are not bad. They were just poorly timed, and therefore had the illusion of being “bad.”
What the heck am I talking about?? Here are just a few examples of some poorly timed workouts that I’ve seen over the years:
Doing a workout after a long and stressful day when you didn’t hydrate well or fuel properly all day.
Doing a workout at 8:00 p.m. and then doing another at 6:00 a.m. the following morning. This is especially poor timing if they workouts are both high-intensity workouts (even if they are in different disciplines).
Doing a workout after a large holiday meal or after a meal that you don’t normally eat before a workout (think spicy food like Indian or Mexican).
Doing an early morning workout without any hydration or fueling prior to the workout.
Doing an evening workout when you normally work out in the morning.
Doing a workout after a night of poor quality sleep.
As a third-party observer to the workouts completed by the athletes who I work for, I usually have a pretty accurate hypothesis as to why a workout didn’t feel great to them. Sometimes it’s lack of recovery/rest. Sometimes it’s lack of proper fueling or hydration. And sometimes, it really is that the timing of the workout was not ideal for that athlete, for whatever reason that may be.
The biggest issue that I see with poorly timed workouts is that they can shatter an athlete’s confidence and cause that athlete to doubt their abilities. This is largely due to the fact that the athlete does not self-identify this as the root cause of the workout going “badly.” The more I coach and personally train and race, the more I realize that mental training and preparation are actually more important than the physical training that an athlete completes en route to a goal. I truly believe that it is more important to be physically trained at less than “100%,” injury-free, and mentally confident. This means that I now advocate for skipping workouts if they will be poorly timed. Obviously, I am not saying that workouts should be skipped every day. But for instance, if you’re looking at the clock, and it’s 8:00 p.m., and you know that your only window to get a workout in tomorrow is at 5:00 a.m., I’m probably going to say that it’s worth skipping the workout as a means to have the best shot possible at having a good performance during the following day’s workout.
The next time you have a workout that you feel is “bad,” I urge you to consider the timing of that workout. It’s very possible that you didn’t have a “bad” workout, and that you just had a poorly timed workout. And moving forward, I encourage you to make smart choices about when you time your workouts, and to consider skipping a workout if it really might be poorly timed. Doing so much just be the trick to setting you up for a higher percentage of better and more confidence-inspiring workouts. :)