One of the most common misconceptions about exercise or sport is that you will eventually reach a point when you no longer have bad days. The assumption is that as you gain strength, the work becomes easier.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but unfortunately the work never gets easier. I’ll even take it a step further and say that as you become stronger, the work becomes more difficult. It’s much more challenging to gain strength when you are already strong. A beginner to the game can gain strength by doing almost anything. That early phase of newbie gains will eventually expire however. It is at that point when you must really bear down and prepare for the long haul. True strength requires a significant investment in time.
Throughout your journey in strength, it is important to understand that you will have bad days. It is inevitable. Anyone who suggests otherwise is either full of sh*t or just plain ignorant. I have no problem admitting that I fail on many of my attempts. I’m also human and have bad days in the real world just like everyone else. I have yet to meet anyone who has never had a sleepless night or dealt with unfortunate circumstances that distracted from their goals.
I am always surprised to read emails from people who ask what I used to do when I had bad days. I had two such questions come in this week alone. These questions are asked under the false assumption that my bad days are a thing of a the past. Unfortunately for me, that’s not the case. I still have my share of bad days in and out of the gym.
As far as dealing with these bad days, I never let one day define the life that I have lived for several thousand days. Whenever I hit a bump in the road, I try to keep the following points in mind…
I. Don’t Panic
First and foremost, don’t panic. Having a bad day may mean nothing more than you are human. Don’t dwell on it. The worst thing that you can do with a bad day is magnify it so that it becomes a bad week. Rather than harping on the problem, try to have a short term memory and move on. Every day is a new day and no days are promised. No matter how bad of a day you’ve had, be fortunate that you get another chance to wake up the next day and start again. Not everyone will be so lucky.
II. Keep Grinding
Since we know that bad days are inevitable, they should not come as a surprise. Don’t be caught off guard and never let a bad day throw you off track. If you have goals that matter to you, you owe it to yourself to keep grinding. A temporary setback is just that. It is temporary. It does not need to be permanent unless you allow it.
III. Miss A Day
As macho as it may sound to proclaim that you never miss days, there are times when it makes sense to skip a day of exercise. Using myself as an example, I have trained regularly for over 20+ years. Missing a day every so often is not going to negate all of the hard work that I have put in before. Some of my best days of training have come after I have forced myself to take a day of rest.
IV. It Could Be Worse
If your biggest problem in life is that you missed a rep on the bench press, it is safe to assume that things could be worse. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. One of the reasons that I share so many inspiring stories on this blog is to put our own problems into perspective. My worst day pales in comparison to some of the stories that I have shared over the years. I say this not to minimize any individual problem, but instead to serve as a reminder that things could almost always be worse.
Don’t drown yourself in self-pity. Get back on your feet and keep moving forward. No one said life would be easy.
V. Listen To Rocky
When in doubt, you can always count on Rocky Balboa to point you back in the right direction. His speech below is as epic today as it was when I first heard it.
“You have to fight through some bad days to earn the best days of your life.”