Don’t Let A Bad Day Hurt Your Training

As a personal trainer, I am exposed to many different kinds of people with all kinds of unique perspectives and tendencies and I do my best to help my clients manage their emotions and mindsets in a way that helps them achieve their goals.

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This past week I witnessed a couple cool things happen while training my clients. Both situations involved two different people but the lesson and outcome was essentially the same.

On both occasions, the client walked into the studio and before the door had closed behind them they promptly notified me that this session was going to be harder than usual and their performance was definitely going to be compromised. I replied by acknowledging their current state and reminding them that they’ve had successful sessions in the past under similar conditions.

I assured them that we have no good reason to believe that their performance would be anything less than phenomenal and that any mindset that fosters negativity and doubt should be first recognized and then swiftly destroyed. My advice was to go into the session with confidence and assertiveness and warm up as usual.

How to Cultivate a Positive Attitude to Training

Recently, I have learned so much about how to cultivate a positive attitude in all approaches to training (and life in general – the transferability is real).

The utility in understanding the power that your thoughts have on your actions, which ultimately compose your reality, cannot be understated. Obviously, this can be applied to all aspects of life, but it is incredibly useful as it relates specifically to the inevitable mental hurdles in training.

Most people are familiar with the Placebo Effect, a phenomena in which one’s positive expectations about something that otherwise would have had no effect result in a favourable outcome.

I’ve recently become very interested (thanks to Dr. Austin Baraki and Dr. Jordan Feigenbaum) in the implications of the lesser known opposite to the Placebo Effect – the Nocebo Effect.

What is the Nocebo Effect?

The Nocebo Effect is when your negative expectations of something result in a negative outcome. Noceo is Latin for “to harm.” Once you understand the Nocebo you start seeing it everywhere, especially if you’re a gymrat. Here are some common words I hear in the gym when people Nocebo themselves without even realizing it: “I forgot my knee sleeves so I guess I won’t PR my squat today,” “My back is still sore from last session so deadlifts will definitely hurt today,” “I didn’t have time to take my pre-workout so the weights will probably move slow today.” These are all unhelpful and potentially harmful on your journey to becoming stronger.

Find a Way to Set Yourself Up For Success:

Going back to the situations with my two clients – both of them gave various reasons for why they had chosen to concede a good training session before starting and most of them were very common ones. (I want to make clear that both of these people are incredibly hard-working clients of mine and even though they may express their lack of enthusiasm on certain days, they always embrace the suck and get the job done).

Some of the popular reasons I hear from clients, friends, fellow gymrats, and even myself for why we will have a bad training performance are: “I missed one or two of my meals today,” “I’m on my period,” “I barely slept last night,” “I had to an extra long day of work,” or “I’m just in a funk for no reason at all.” All of which are valid feelings and I don’t deny the emotional implications they may have for a person.

I think most of us can agree that the kind of advice that awkwardly forces pseudo-positivity into these situations will most likely come off as annoying and just make matters worse. The legitimacy of feeling like poop is real but it doesn’t mean that your training will be poop too. That being said, if you wish to optimize your training (and to enjoy it), you MUST find a way to set yourself up for success in the face of life’s expected and unexpected hurdles. Anyways, the cool part is that although both these folks had originally arrived with their mind made up that today was going to suck, after some encouraging words and cogent reassurance, they both ended up having above average performances that day. Now, I don’t mean to imply that their problems of the day somehow magically disappeared, but I do mean that they were able to recognize the false assumption that those problems of the day would inevitably lead to a poor training performance.

Foster Your Mindset:

I read a quote once that I’m sure you’re familiar with and it goes something like “whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” It perfectly sums up the mindset that I work to foster in myself and my clients. If you believe that the weight will be heavy today because you only slept 4 hours then it WILL be heavy. On the contrary, if you believe that your training can still go well REGARDLESS of suboptimal circumstances then it will likely still go well. At the very least, you didn’t give up and assume the worst. Give yourself the best chances of success, which on the days where everything seems to go wrong, you need the most.

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