As lifters we’ve all heard a phrase that goes something alone the lines of, “The only bad gym day is the one you miss.” This is true but it’s also not exclusive because the fact is that you can have very bad days indeed at the gym. Particularly if you lift heavy, and if you’re not lifting heavy then what’s your miserable excuse for being such a pussy?
On Monday I had a bad day at the gym. A bad day is not a day when lifting hurts. If you’re lifting heavy then every day at the gym hurts. I squat three times a week and every single time it hurts really bad. The squat reduces me to a miserable piece of flotsam trailing in the wake of an energized Bismark on its way to sink the HMS Hood. Every single time I take a huge breath, push out my knees, and go down in a squat I do not know if I’m going to have the strength to make it back up again.
And if I do manage to make it up it hurts. My head spins after 5 squat reps. My breathing is as heavy as if I’ve just sprinted between a set of goal posts. I usually lean against a wall and focus on something in the middle distance to regain my bearings, usually a nice set of tits that are jiggling up and down on the only piece of cardio equipment in the entire gym.
No, pain and hurt do not a bad day in the gym make. Pain and hurt is every gym day.
A bad day is when your lifts do not come together. When you fail to push out your 5 reps. When every approach to the bar fills you with a sense of your own powerlessness in front of the iron. When you struggle with your warmup lifts, let alone the main ones. When you really have to do your very best to get through the session and not quit early. And even when you do manage to achieve this feat you feel no sense of accomplishment but instead you trudge to the change room a broken man.
That is a bad day at the gym.
But here is the thing; you need the bad days. In fact I would argue that the bad days are more important than the good days. For it is on the bad days that you do the real hard work that is needed to have a good day. The bad day sets you up for the good day. The good day is not because you’re good on that day but because you ground it out on the bad day. You can’t only have good days at the gym; life does not work that way.
My Monday session was so bad that I skipped Wednesday; I just didn’t have it in me. It’s my first skip in a month but I felt that my body was screaming for a respite. On Friday I showed up and I smashed it. Squats, press, and deadlift all had their respective weight barriers broken. It wasn’t easy, it never is, but I made every lift and then some. I still had fuel in the tank when I left which is why I walked out of there fast before I did something stupid like do some barbell curls and not leave myself anything in the tank for the next session.
Every time you’re having a bad session remember that those are the important ones. And how you handle the bad sessions will directly reflect on how you progress. Anyone can manage a good session but the difference between those that progress and those that don’t is how they managed the inevitable bad sessions.
The bad is the difference between the winners and the losers, and there are far more of the latter than there are of the former. I see new guys at the gym on a regular basis. There was one the other week who was struggling badly with just 25kg on the press. There’s nothing wrong with that, although his form was terrible due to the weight being too much for him, (lifting his feet off the ground in an effort to get the bar up).
We had a little conversation and he was a nice guy, a nice guy trying to better himself. Good on you, dude.
Of course, we’ll never see him down there in the gym again. I have no doubt that it was all just too much for him. He was too nice, not enough killer instinct and not enough capacity to absorb pain. I could see him looking around at some of the other lifters in envy, but what he didn’t understand or appreciate is that in that moment they were all going through pain as well, just as much as him if not more so. But all he saw was that they were making huge lifts and making it look easy.
You never arrive. The pain never goes away. The lifts never get easier. The bad sessions are always your very next one.
Kinda like life when you think about it.