How to Bounce Back From a Bad Workout

In the wise, wise words of my yoga instructor Erin, “Some days you feel like a rock star, other days you just feel like a rock.”


Last night was one of those “rock” days. Mentally, I just wasn’t focused. Physically, I was shaky and unbalanced. Goddess pose killed my quads, pigeon pose downright hurt, and holding airplane pose beyond a single breath? Forget about it.

I hesitate to call any workout “bad”. Rock star or just plain rock, you’re up, you’re active, and you’re putting effort into taking care of your body. Regardless, when your efforts just don’t line up, it’s hard to move beyond that “bad workout” feeling of letting yourself down.

It’s far too easy to wallow in the aftermath of a sub-par workout. Driving home from the hot studio, I wouldn’t have believed Kathryn Budig herself if she’d told me my self-worth wasn’t measured by the depth of my downward dog.

A workout, however, is just that. It’s not a life-or-death matter (unless a gunman is dictating your shoulder stands, in which case I suggest you find a new studio in a better part of town). It’s not a competition or a means to invoke jealousy. It’s you, working on your endurance, your strength, and your dedication. It’s a practice.

You’re not going to kill it at the gym every night. Heck, even Peyton Manning has off days. And look at it this way: your off days don’t end your season 😉 Just remember:

Don’t blame yourself… It’s natural to accuse yourself of poor effort, crappy balance, lack of skill, lack of speed, lack of coordination…you get the drift. None of that is true, and if it were, you wouldn’t be able to work out in the first place. An “off” night is no reflection of your overall competence, fitness, or ability as an athlete, whatever your chosen sport may be.

…But don’t make excuses. Sure, crappy playlists, unenthusiastic instructors, stressful days at work, inadequate hydration/nutrition, and lack of sleep can all throw off your workout…but blaming them for the workout doesn’t do you any good either!

Leave it in the past. It’s done. It’s over. Leave the stress on the mat/treadmill/elliptical/court. Tomorrow is a new day and a new chance to bust it out!

Remind yourself of previous successes. When you’re feeling bummed and incapable, draw back on a time when you set a PR, nailed negative splits or completed your first headstand. Reliving the endorphin rush that accompanied your accomplishment can set you back on the right track to replicate the feeling in your next workout!

Do something to put the fun back into working out. Fitness fiascos can put a huge damper on my enthusiasm to get moving. One 37 minute 5k training run resulted in a two week hiatus from running simply because I dreaded getting back into the swing of it. A few zumba classes later, I had gotten back my enthusiasm for a good heart-pounding workout and was ready to take it back to the pavement! Whether it’s setting a new goal for the same sport or looking into a unique new workout like rock-climbing or pole dancing, shaking up your routine can put some excitement back into getting moving!

Plan to BEAST your next gym sesh. Positive thinking, Little Miss (or Mister) athlete! Need I really say more?

What do you do to recover from a less-than-stellar workout?

9 Comments on “How to Bounce Back From a Bad Workout”

  1. Great post with great ideas!!!!!
    If I have a “bad” workout, I usually give myself a couple of days to recoup so that I’ll have more energy the next time around!!!!

  2. Katy says:

    Love these tips!

    If I have a bad workout, I try to figure out why it was “bad” and make changes! If it was from a lack of sleep, I’ll get more sleep. If it was due to poor hydration, I’ll drink more water, etc. etc.

  3. Ugh, I try not to be disappointed with myself if I have a bad workout, assume I just need to refocus, and just try to do better next time!

  4. SUCH a fabulous post! I had a rotten workout the other day and I think I needed to read this. My top tip for coming off a bad workout is to remember that it’s just one workout. There will be another day, another try. And if I had a bad workout, it’s probably because I’m overworking myself and should probably take a rest day. My muscles and my mind will thank me for it!

  5. I usually pout, and then go at it again the next day …

  6. greensandjeans says:

    it’s really amazing how much a new playlist can turn my workouts around!

  7. Sana says:

    I have totally felt like a rock, than i remember it’s good for my body. No matter how bad it is!

  8. movesnmunchies says:

    great tips! i often over do it and then I end up not working out for ages!

  9. great tips. i try to analyze WHY it sucked. sometimes its just a bad day OR i’m sore or have pushed it too far that week. when that happens I stop and tell myself I need a break and that’s okay. If not, if I just dont feel good, I usually try to lower the intensity or find something I am actually going to ENJOY to make a compromise with myself.

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