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What to Do on Bad Workout Days | Training Rescue 101


There are days when you walk into the gym feeling fantastic, expecting your first squat PR in months, or just eager to do your routine for the day, and somehow your entire plan crumbles to bits. On the other hand, sometimes you know even before you hit the mat that no asana will feel right, or you’re just too sore from the previous workout, and your body refuses to cooperate.

Whichever scenario sounds most familiar, chances are you’ve had your share of bad workout days, and you’d gladly forget all about them. However, there are some simple ways you can adjust your workout on those bleak days and still make the most out of your fitness routine!

Define Progress
Even though it’s healthy to be competitive with yourself and strive to overcome your current abilities, progress is rarely, if ever, linear. It has many important aspects, including learning the mechanics of a movement, increasing your endurance or strength, or pushing your body further into a stretch.

So, perhaps your original idea for the day was to stick to your programme and push your effort to over 90%, but you see during your warmup that you’re struggling with 75%. Perhaps your body is trying to tell you something – you might be too tired, stressed, hungry, or dehydrated, and we all know that never happens overnight. That’s why it’s important to have an emergency de-load plan which you can use to bounce back without throwing in the towel!

Create Your Emergency Routine
Even with the best planned routines that include a de-load week, plenty of sleep and a healthy nutrition plan, sometimes your body craves a change. If your bad days aren’t chronic, and they occur only once in a few weeks, here are a few routines you can resort to in order to boost your energy and break a sweat before you return to your normal gig the very next day!

  • Bodyweight HIIT sessions – The beauty of HIIT is that you can mix and match any bodyweight (or even weighted) movements you love, make them dynamic and burn fat efficiently. You can combine squats, lunges, burpees, running, cycling, sit-ups, jump-rope, pullups, push-ups, hip thrusts, to name a few, in short increments of 30sec to a minute with about 10sec of rest in between. This will do wonders for your mood and you’ll sleep like a baby!
  • Home dance workouts – Nothing can lift your spirit quite like your favourite tunes, so prepare an emergency playlist, and bust some moves! The beauty of this workout is that you can do it at home, any time, and change the routine every time.
  • Swim, jog, walk or cycle – A light cardio routine will be more than enough to give you that much-needed endorphin kick, increase your heartrate, and prepare you for your next training session.


Boost Your Motivation
Nothing is more of a killjoy than negative self-talk or self-pity. As soon as you notice your workout doesn’t feel fun and enjoyable, you need to work to change your attitude and use self-motivating techniques. Have a prepared list of positive affirmations in your phone (or learn them by heart), recite them to yourself and let them sink in.

It’s natural that your physical performance varies, but that is no excuse for people of all ages, shapes and sizes to give up on staying fit and healthy, even on the worst of days. If a movement doesn’t feel right, lower your weights or go back to the basics and practice the mechanics, and enjoy the process! It will only strengthen your mind-muscle connection and improve your muscle memory, so perceive this as a chance to progress in terms of enhancing the very foundation of your fitness knowledge.

In the long run, there is no such thing as a bad workout. Improving your fitness and health is a process, and it will always have a learning curve, as well as ups and downs. That’s why you should find a way to embrace those seemingly crummy days and perceive them as opportunities to become a fitter, stronger, healthier you!

**Imagery courtesy of

written by Samantha Olivier

Samantha Olivier has a B.Sc. in nutrition, and has spent two years working as a personal trainer. Since then, she has embarked on a mission to conquer the blogosphere. When not in the gym or on the track, you can find her on Twitter @sam_olivier_ or in a tea shop. She also blogs at



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