5 Steps to Recovering from a Bad Workout

Everybody has one of those days, now and then. Ya know, the one where your legs refuse to listen to your mind telling them how to work together, your feet feel like bricks tied to overcooked spaghetti noodles, and the beautiful rhythm of running becomes more of ragtime feel. Does any of this make sense?

Well, my workout today was one of those. And, as I half ran, half waddled, throwing any chance of looking graceful and dignified out the window as I huffed, snorted, and grunted my way to my house, I decided I should probably write a blog about it. What kind of running blogger would I be if I didn’t, right? Haha!

So, without further ado, here’s my 5 steps to recovering from a bad workout:

1. Figure out what went wrong, not what happened badly.

By this, I mean, figure out how to prepare better next time. Occasionally, you’ll just have a bad day after perfect preparation, but I believe many times it’s probably a series of small snafus that add up to a rough run. As an example, I can pinpoint major things that I did wrong – I didn’t eat well last night or before the run, my socks were put in the dryer resulting in shrinking and hotspots, and I ran in the middle of the day in the sun. All of those things worked together to make for a hard workout. If you’re doing everything right and bad workouts are still happening, it’s okay, but if you can do something to fix it next time, now’s the time to figure it out.

2. Find your mantra.

I used to do a Mantra Monday post once a week, offering ideas of mantras to use when the going gets tough. I have settled on the phrase “Now. Here. This.” It grounds me to the present, preventing my mind from scurrying too far from reality. This probably something you’ll want to find before you experience the bad workout – it can be a song, original phrase, inspirational quote, or a mental image, but make sure that it keeps you in the present.

3. Realize how far you’ve come.

Of course, this could just mean, “Wow! I’ve gone 7 miles and I feel terrible.” That’s now what I intend to say. I mean, in a personal way, examine where you’ve come from. It wasn’t so long ago that I could not have run 3 miles at an easy pace without feeling like I did today. Today, I punished myself for 10 miles while trying to run intervals at a pace that would qualify for the Boston Marathon (provided, of course, that my marathon doesn’t go like my workout did today). If you’re just getting into running, and all your workouts seem terrible, realize how big a step it is to get active in the first place. No one can take that away from you. That’s the furthest a person can come, so realize that.

4. Be ready to ditch the workout and improvise your own.

By the end of my workout, when I was struggling to keep even the “easy” pace I normally run, I had to just say, “Forget about it. It’s not happening today.” But realize that you are happening today. Be ready to throw the last interval out the window and figure out how to get the most of the rest of the miles you have. Maybe that’s walking. Maybe it’s throwing in some short intervals, fartlek style. However it looks, remember that you control your training. Your training does not control you. If it’s not serving you, it’s okay to take a break from it and come back to it tomorrow.

5. Give yourself time to recover so you get nail it next time.

When I sent my wife a text to complain about my terrible run, her only response was, “Practice make progress, not perfect.” That’s exactly what I needed to hear. At the end of a workout, even the hardest, most annoying, gut wrenching, or pitiful workout of your life, you’re better for having tried it. An active lifestyle and training, in particular, are basically practice in failure with the hope that someday you will do more than you ever thought possible. Someday, you’ll nail those intervals, tempos, paces, or miles. If you can’t right now, it’s okay. Don’t judge who you are based on your performance. Judge your performance based on who you are. And that, my friends, is pretty, stinkin’ awesome.

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Run happy. We carry each other.

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