The Bad Workouts Matter, Too

I recently had one of those workouts. You know the kind. You go into it feeling good, feeling like you got this. Then you get your ass handed to you physically. And not only physically, but also emotionally, mentally. It takes everything in youand then it takes everything out of you.

This particular workout was the last of the five Granite Games qualifier workouts, which I decided to do for “fun.” The first four weren’t a breeze, but I survived. I didn’t want to quit, or cry, or fall down. But during this last one, I wanted to do all those things. I did do some of those things. The workout was non-stop movement and there was no timecap, meaning it had to be finished no matter how long it took.

The beginning was OK. I felt strong-ish and felt like my pace was good. But then it went downhill. The fatigue set in. I’m talking all-out, shaking, goosebumps, nausea fatigue, the type I’ve only felt a number of times in my life. I wondered what the hell I was doing, why I even thought I could accomplish this workout. I started to doubt my abilities. And as soon as I started doing that, I could feel myself slipping. I rarely consider giving up and quitting a workout, but with this one I did. I wanted to so badly.

The two coaches at the gym at the time kept me moving though, and I finished it, one rep at a time. I truly mean that. It was One. Rep. At. A. Time. And every single one was an all-out battle with my body, but mostly with my mind.

As soon as I completed the last rep, I let myself fall to the floor, facedown. Then I started sobbing. Like heaving, sniffling, sobbing, face down on the rubber mats, in front of other people in the gym. I can’t say that’s where I expected to end the workout. It just happened. It had been a long, emotional, anxiety-riddled day, and finishing that god-awful 24 minutes was the release I apparently needed to let it all out.

I’m writing this down because we so often talk about the good workouts, the ones where we do more reps than we thought possible, or lift more weight than we could the week before. But the bad workouts deserve some credit, too.

The bad ones are what build strength mentally. They’re the ones we use as benchmarks the next time we’re in the middle of a terrible workout, sweat pouring off our bodies, trembling beyond belief. That is the moment we tap into our mental strength. The bad workouts are our fill-in-the-blank workouts, when we think to ourselves, “If I made it through (fill in the blank), I can make it through this one.”

This is because in Crossfit (and working out in general) mental strength is equally as important as physical strength. When you begin to think “I can’t do this,” it becomes the truth. You make it acceptable to give up because you truly believe you are not capable and therefore have no choice but to stop doing what you’re doing.

But the truth is that you are always capable of more than you think you are. Twenty minutes after I finished the workout from hell, I kind of laughed and thought to myself, “I feel OK now, that wasn’t that bad,” even though when I was doing it was the WORST THING I’VE EVER DONE. But the point is that we recover. When we finish something difficult, it feels so much more rewarding than when we finish something that was easy.

So this is just your reminder that it’s OK to take the time to wallow in the bad workouts. We all do it. But make sure you also stop and think about what such a workout did for you mentally.

I know this freaking terrible workout will stay with me. This is one of the ones that shaped me, one of the ones that will remind me I finished something I thought was impossible. This is my fill-in-the-blank workout…until the next one comes along.

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