Work out, but always beware

The impossible can always be broken down into possibilities – Unknown

A few weeks ago I received an email from a friend who is training for this year’s New York marathon. They had a few concerns after experiencing poor performance on their most recent run. Their email read as follows:

I had the worst run ever last night. I had zero energy. I would run 3/4s of a mile and would have to stop and walk. The legs had nothing. I still managed to stumble along for a few miles but it was very slow and my legs feel sore and stiff today. Is this just a case of needing more rest? The question itself isn’t overly complex. However the answer could be due to a variety of factors, so I thought I would share with you possible reasons behind a less than ideal work out and how I deal with them because a bad work out is good chance for learning.

If we were always at peak performance levels we’d really be on a plateau!

Personally, I’ve been know to get a bit moody anytime a workout doesn’t go to plan. I mean, why wouldn’t a work out go as planned? I know my schedule days in advance. I know what is required of me. All I have to do is go out and get it done. It sounds simple but unfortunately not everything in life goes according to plan and as frustrating as it can be I’ve learned to accept the things I cannot change (after a brief pouting period of course). For one reason or another I wasn’t at my physical best that day and rather dwell on what I couldn’t do, I try to focus on the reasons behind it. An important thing to remember is that a less than ideal work out happens to all of us and it isn’t the end of the world or a reflection of how your training is going.

Usually, after just such a work out, I’ll sit quietly at home and reflect for a few minutes. I refer to it as my runner’s low. During this time I’ll look back at my routine for the last couple of days (this is where having a log of your work outs comes in handy) and analyse the following:

Diet. Am I eating enough food and the proper types of food to provide my body with fuel necessary to reach my desired energy levels? Am I properly hydrating? You’ll remember from one of my earlier columns I mentioned that I worked myself into a state of Ketosis which is obviously going to hamper my performance.

Sleep. I usually get 8 or 9 hours of sleep a night (compared to the about 6 hours a night when I lived in Toronto) which is plenty but when life happens and my social calendar keeps me up past my regular bedtime the impact is usually reflected in my training.

Recovery. Zero energy can be the body’s way of telling you it hasn’t recovered from the previous work out. I try to ensure I’m getting at least one rest day (no workouts) a week and giving myself proper time to recover between intense work outs.

My goal for the workout itself. Sometimes during my training I’ll get on a roll where I’m consistently achieving or surpassing the goals I set for myself during each session. These streaks are great for boosting confidence. However, it can also lead to overestimating my abilities and at times setting unrealistic targets.

General changes to my life. Exercise is a wonder drug when dealing with stress. However, changes to your daily routine (i.e. moving house, a new job and a new relationship) can impact your energy levels and performance. I certainly don’t recommend putting off exercising as you adjust to these changes but we need to be cognizant of the fact that performance may suffer as you adjust to changes in your daily routine.

When the occasion does arise and I find myself physically unable to perform my work out as planned I ask myself “what am I capable of achieving that day?”

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