How To Get More Out Of Yourself At The Gym Even When You Feel Tired

Have you ever had a period where you were training, but for one reason or another you just couldn't get the most out of yourself. You felt flat, bored and getting to that next gear was just not happening?

As a health and fitness professional this has happened to me more times than I care to remember. I will likely feel this way again, but thanks to the experiences I can share with you in this newsletter I have strategies to cope with it and make the best of the situation. 

I would like to share with you a strategy for setting your expectations ahead of the exercise session, and a few mental techniques for getting the best out of yourself when you are exercising.

Before going to the gym or a class, assess the following things

  1. When did I last eat? (If it was more than 4 hours ago, there is a good chance this will be a lower energy session for you, and that's ok, just be aware of it). 
  2. How did I sleep last night? (Broken sleep, or less than 5 hours and this will be a challenge, again just be aware of it and avoid trying to max out). 
  3. How is my mood? (If your in a bad mood then exercise will do you the world of good, just bear in mind that this mood could be down to the fact you are under-recovered and might have high stress levels at the moment).  

Setting Expectations

After answering these questions, ask yourself the following question. On a scale of 1-10, 10 being full of energy and 1 almost none, score yourself. 

If you gave yourself a score of 7 or above, you are good to go and push hard.

A score of 4-6 and you will need to back off a little, take additional rest and avoid giving yourself a hard time mentally.

If you score below 4, take it very easy, reduce the amount of time you intend to exercise. 10-30 minutes max probably best, make sure the intensity is low and be kind to yourself. You need regeneration, not punishing.


 Techniques For Pushing Hard (Score of 7-10)

When you are full of energy you have the advantage of a heightened sense of focus. When you perform a particular exercise whether it be a squat or a sprint, focus your mind in that moment on one thing and one thing only. 

When squatting for example, focus on pushing the floor away from you. If you are sprinting focus on driving your knees high and pushing the floor away behind you. 

When your energy is good this is a wonderful opportunity to "feel" an exercise and try to become one with it. Rather than just move from A-B and getting the target number of reps you want to hit, think about the muscle or movement you are working and focus your mind exclusively on that. You will find that you can get far more out of each movement, improving the quality and the satisfaction you get from exercise.

You will not always feel this way, but when you can get into the "zone" then make the most of it and enjoy it.  


Techniques For Getting Through The Workout (Score 4-6)

Break the workout into smaller sections mentally. Take small amounts of rest between exercises. If you have say 12 reps to do in a set. Work yourself to the point where it gets challenging and then break the harder part into 2's. "the next two reps, then the next 2 reps", rather than thinking "oh my god I have 6 reps to go!!". By breaking it down mentally it will help you get through to the end and a lot less likely to give up. 

Sometimes we can rev ourselves up from a 6 to a 7 or 8 on a good day.In general I would say avoid pushing yourself too hard. Take the workout a little slower and break things up. If you want to hit 10 reps on an exercise, but you know that the last 2 are going to be physically and mentally intense/ draining, allow yourself to back off slightly, make sure the reps you do perform are good quality. Quality beats quantity every time. 


Techniques For Getting The Most Out Of Turning Up (Score 1-3)

The reality here is that you will not be hitting your numbers (weights usually lifted), or breaking any personal best's today. This is about going through the motions, focus on mobility, weight lifting technique and some gentle cardio at the end if any at all. Mentally it can be easy to beat yourself up here as you will likely be thinking negatively from a bad mood, lack of sleep and not eating for a long time.

Be kind to yourself, acknowledge your lack of recovery and do the best you can in the circumstances. You have 100% control over your sleep, your food and even the way you feel. Come back stronger tomorrow. 

Yoga can be a great alternative when your energy levels are low. 


What Action Can You Take  Today?

Before your next workout

  • Assess where you are energy wise on a scale of 1-10
  • Set your performance expectation according to the previous recommendations
  • Apply any of the techniques above to your circumstances today

On a side note I would like to add that I am not saying that you should not push yourself if you feel you can. Many times warming up and exercising will increase energy levels and shift people mentally from say a 6 to 7/8.


The Takeaway

The main takeaway I would like you to have from this newsletter is the skill of setting your expectations before you workout. This way you don't waste bundles of energy beating yourself up for what you would consider a poor workout, or...not working out at all. 

Yours in health

Patrick Fallis

Founder of Leaner