T Nation

How Often Do You Have a 'Bad' Session?


#1

So yesterday was the first time in a long time I just had one of those days where I wasn't feeling it all from the beginning. Everything seemed slow and heavy and after some form got too sloppy I just shut it down. Figured live to lift another day lol. I know I've been recovering just fine and I figure I was due for a bad day at some point.

How often do you guys have "bad" sessions?


#2

Bad sessions don’t come once every X. They happen when sleep, recovery, motivation, food, etc, etc don’t quite sync up. One bad session is nothing. If you have several in a row, reevaluate which variables are there and which are lacking.


#3

[quote]isdatnutty wrote:
So yesterday was the first time in a long time I just had one of those days where I wasn’t feeling it all from the beginning. Everything seemed slow and heavy and after some form got too sloppy I just shut it down. Figured live to lift another day lol. I know I’ve been recovering just fine and I figure I was due for a bad day at some point.

How often do you guys have “bad” sessions?

[/quote]

Dan John wrote about it.

"In a group of five workouts, I tend to have one great workout: the kind of workout that makes me think that in just a few weeks I could be an Olympic champion and Mr. Olympia. Then, I have one workout that’s so awful that the mere fact I continue to exist as a somewhat higher form of life is a miracle. Then, the other three workouts are the “punch the clock” workouts: I go in, work out, and walk out. Most people experience this.

Now, in a 100 workouts, I’ll have twenty great workouts. Of that twenty, a couple will be flat out amazing. And in a 1000 workouts, one is worthy of an article, or bragging to your buddies about. So, once a decade, if you’re lucky, you have that workout."


#4

[quote]nighthawkz wrote:

[quote]isdatnutty wrote:
So yesterday was the first time in a long time I just had one of those days where I wasn’t feeling it all from the beginning. Everything seemed slow and heavy and after some form got too sloppy I just shut it down. Figured live to lift another day lol. I know I’ve been recovering just fine and I figure I was due for a bad day at some point.

How often do you guys have “bad” sessions?

[/quote]

Dan John wrote about it.

"In a group of five workouts, I tend to have one great workout: the kind of workout that makes me think that in just a few weeks I could be an Olympic champion and Mr. Olympia. Then, I have one workout that’s so awful that the mere fact I continue to exist as a somewhat higher form of life is a miracle. Then, the other three workouts are the “punch the clock” workouts: I go in, work out, and walk out. Most people experience this.

Now, in a 100 workouts, I’ll have twenty great workouts. Of that twenty, a couple will be flat out amazing. And in a 1000 workouts, one is worthy of an article, or bragging to your buddies about. So, once a decade, if you’re lucky, you have that workout."[/quote]

This.

Dan Johns also gone on to say that “one in five” is just a number he made up on the spot, the point he was trying to communicate was that if the program is working as a whole, one bad workout is nothing to worry about. I believe this was in an interview with Mark Rippetoe.

Instead of shutting it down though, I make sure I’ve got a plan B, which is usually to cut out everything but the essentials and maybe lower the rep count/volume if needed.


#5

Hell I had one yesterday, usually I’ll stick around and do some basic stuff to feel productive. Other times I’ll go home and make an adult beverage and grill a steak. I don’t stress about individual bad days, or even the occasional bad week. I evaluate why and plan to make it better, if your diet and training are in sync and you get adequate sleep it shouldn’t come by often, but when it does it’s not the end of the world.


#6

[quote]dagill2 wrote:

[quote]nighthawkz wrote:
Dan John wrote about it.[/quote]
This.[/quote]
Yep. Simple enough and gets the point across that, like it or not, they can’t all be Super-Amaze-O-Supreme Winner sessions.

This is why I like “autoregulating” and working with rep ranges instead of shooting for strict percentages.

If I’m shooting for 2-4 reps in a given set, and it’s a good day, I might hit X weight. If I’m dragging that day, it might be 20 pounds less than X. If I’m on fire and it’s an awesome day, it might be X + 10 pounds. In the long run, I trust it’ll sort itself out because the work will still have been done up to that day’s standard without necessarily needing to adjust the volume to compensate.

EDIT: For example, lately I’ve been training in my backyard a few days a week. Between the summer sun (tons more sweat) and the distracting mosquitos, my weights have been down a bit more than usual.

I’m still choosing to stick with it because when I do get back to just lifting just in the gym, A) I’m expecting any strength to bounce back right-quick from the more idealized situation, and B) the physical and mental benefits of lifting in my yard outweigh any “drawbacks” of lifting slightly lighter for a short period.


#7

Usually I stop myself before I have a bad workout, and hence rarely experience them. I usually “know” before I step into the gym and might just take the day off. Ive found this works better than slugging through them. For example, last night I was supposed to practice an event but I knew my body wouldn’t be able to handle it. I got home, sat down for a minute thinking I just needed a 15 minute nap and fell asleep in 5 minutes, waking up abou 2 hours later. Clearly the rest was needed.

For a frequency, Id say once every two or three weeks I find I need to skip a workout or put it off to the next day.


#8

Bad sessions tend to catch me off guard. I approach every training session like it’s going to be awesome, regardless of external factors, as I feel like mentality plays a big part in it. Only got 4 hours of sleep, been living off of McDoubles, dehydrated and drove through 3 hours of LA traffic? Fuck it, lets set a PR (which is amazingly a true story).

That said, I can usually tell it’s going to be a bad day in my warm-ups. When the weight just isn’t moving the way it should, usually (but not always) the work set reflects it. When this happens, I set up for a “bad day PR”, wherein I compare how well I did on my last bad day and try to beat that record. It’s operating under the premise that “being strong” is all about shortening the gap between your good days and your bad days, so that your “average strength” is still pretty strong. When you can lift more on a bad day than most can lift on their best day, you’re getting somewhere.

EDIT: I guess an even crazier story is the time I set a deadlift PR 24 hours after leaving the ER for severe dehydration due to gastroenteritis.

Protip: If you show up to an ER in the middle of a North Dakota winter wearing only a t-shirt, Super Mario fleece pajama bottoms and combat boots being carried in by your wife, you get treated almost immediately.


#9

What I found to work is when I anticipate I’ll have to deal with a lot of life stresses, I cut back on assistance work temporarily and lift first thing in the morning when I can focus the most. Caffeine helps to get through the rest of the day. If it’s moderate to heavy weights, I won’t skip the session but if it’s very heavy then I would rather take an extra day or two of rest. My maximal strength seems to be more affected by lack of sleep.


#10

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
Bad sessions tend to catch me off guard. I approach every training session like it’s going to be awesome, regardless of external factors, as I feel like mentality plays a big part in it. Only got 4 hours of sleep, been living off of McDoubles, dehydrated and drove through 3 hours of LA traffic? Fuck it, lets set a PR (which is amazingly a true story).

That said, I can usually tell it’s going to be a bad day in my warm-ups. When the weight just isn’t moving the way it should, usually (but not always) the work set reflects it. When this happens, I set up for a “bad day PR”, wherein I compare how well I did on my last bad day and try to beat that record. It’s operating under the premise that “being strong” is all about shortening the gap between your good days and your bad days, so that your “average strength” is still pretty strong. When you can lift more on a bad day than most can lift on their best day, you’re getting somewhere.

EDIT: I guess an even crazier story is the time I set a deadlift PR 24 hours after leaving the ER for severe dehydration due to gastroenteritis.

Protip: If you show up to an ER in the middle of a North Dakota winter wearing only a t-shirt, Super Mario fleece pajama bottoms and combat boots being carried in by your wife, you get treated almost immediately. [/quote]

I totally agree with this.

Also I shall bear your tip in mind, because I think it would work in most places.


#11

[quote]MarkKO wrote:

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
Bad sessions tend to catch me off guard. I approach every training session like it’s going to be awesome, regardless of external factors, as I feel like mentality plays a big part in it. Only got 4 hours of sleep, been living off of McDoubles, dehydrated and drove through 3 hours of LA traffic? Fuck it, lets set a PR (which is amazingly a true story).

That said, I can usually tell it’s going to be a bad day in my warm-ups. When the weight just isn’t moving the way it should, usually (but not always) the work set reflects it. When this happens, I set up for a “bad day PR”, wherein I compare how well I did on my last bad day and try to beat that record. It’s operating under the premise that “being strong” is all about shortening the gap between your good days and your bad days, so that your “average strength” is still pretty strong. When you can lift more on a bad day than most can lift on their best day, you’re getting somewhere.

EDIT: I guess an even crazier story is the time I set a deadlift PR 24 hours after leaving the ER for severe dehydration due to gastroenteritis.

Protip: If you show up to an ER in the middle of a North Dakota winter wearing only a t-shirt, Super Mario fleece pajama bottoms and combat boots being carried in by your wife, you get treated almost immediately. [/quote]

I totally agree with this.

Also I shall bear your tip in mind, because I think it would work in most places. [/quote]

I developed the same mentality from running 5/3/1. Seeing that my minimum strength increased over time is what helped me focus on long term progress instead of extreme highs and lows from session to session.


#12

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
Protip: If you show up to an ER in the middle of a North Dakota winter wearing only a t-shirt, Super Mario fleece pajama bottoms and combat boots being carried in by your wife, you get treated almost immediately. [/quote]

hahaha, noted!

I want some super mario PJ’s…


#13

I’m not sure it has to be a bad session.

Say you’re doing your warm up sets and you’re thinking, “hell this is feeling a bit too heavy”. So you already know it’s pretty much pointless going through with a percentage based strength progression of a 2 or 3 rep set.

What I would do is stop at a lighter working weight and do 3 higher rep sets. On the last set push it for as many reps as possible until I fail. This will give the muscle some work even though it’s at a lighter weight then you may have be planning. It’s ok to change things on the spot.

I’d probably make the whole session a real mind muscle connection session and go for the pump when you can.
No point wasting the session just because you wanted to train for strength but you’re feeling weak. Change things on the spot and get something out of it.

The session would be short though. If I’m feeling weak then I’m out of there in around 45 minutes. Just pay attention to the main elements then go. No point worrying about little things when your struggling.


#14

About once every 1-2 weeks I’ll have a real stinker of a session…I think if you have bad work-outs much more then that it’s a pretty clear sign you are doing something wrong in your approach to training/life etc.


#15

I’ll have a bad session every now and then, once every few weeks I guess. This used to really piss me off, and I’d stress about trying to find out the reason why it didn’t go well. Now, I just look at it as an opportunity to build some mental toughness, finish what I came to the gym to do, and get out. I’ve realized that life will get in the way of training, and until the day that I’m a professional athlete (i.e., never) life will always take priority over training.

On days where I can tell I’m going to suck, I get very workman-like and just grind through. If I feel like an injury is imminent, or I really just can’t focus enough to keep the session safe or productive, I leave, grab a beer and do something I enjoy.

Training isn’t life, but it should be a part of life you enjoy. Don’t let it have so much power over you that shitty day in the gym crushes you. Feel grateful you have the time/resources/physical ability to train.