Last night, I tried to do a "Pull" workout (a.k.a. Back). But, I was very tired having not slept well the night before and having not taken any caffeine pre-workout. Normally, I would pop one of the 5-Hour Energy shots on the way to the gym, but it was late and I didn't want to risk having another bad night of sleep. When I got the gym, I did a few sets of pull ups and a set or two of low-pulley rows and left the gym. Overall, the workout was crap. I performed much worse than I did the previous week in pull ups. In a sport where "improvement" can be one extra rep or simply a more confident feeling at the same rep count, actually performing less reps at a given weight is a huge psychological hit! And, in an arena where a positive mentality is quite crucial, feeling negative about a workout is a horrible thing and can quickly spiral into a vicious cycle.
On the long walk home, I had time to reflect on my gym experience. I knew that I could either throw a little pity-party for myself and accept that sometimes the gym just sucks - or, I could actually come up with a way to make sure this sort of thing doesn't happen again. I started to think about the gym dynamics and the workout mentality and I quickly formulated what I'm calling my success strategy for working out when you're tired. It's very simple, but I think it will be quite effective:
If you're feeling tired and / or feeling like you're going to under perform in comparison to your last workout, stop what you're doing immediately and pick new exercises for the workout. These can either be new exercises or simply ones that you have not performed in a while.
From what I have theorized, this very simple strategy has several very powerful payoffs:
Because these are exercises that you have not done before (or haven't done in a while), you won't have much data to compare to. Even if you don't perform well, you won't get the psychological hit of knowing you were stronger the previous week.
Because you will probably not perform well during this workout, you are automatically building a huge emotional payoff into your next workout where, compared to this one, you are bound to perform much better.
By selecting new exercises, you will help keep the body in an adaptative state where it has to grow more muscles to cope with the variety of workout stimulus.
I think that by simply changing exercises, you will experience an elevated mood (change of scenery effect), which will help your performance.
So, that's the strategy that I'm putting into affect in my workout regimen. I am also formulating some other thoughts on exercise rotation in general, but that will come in a later blog post.