4 Questions to Ask When You Have a Bad Workout

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “You never regret a workout.” Well, maybe you don’t regret working out, but anyone who exercises consistently has definitely had an experience of just nothing going right and suffering through a suckfest of a workout (that’s a technical term, of course). Whether it’s a run which feels like an interminable slog, a strength session where your easy weights feel heavy, or a yoga class which makes you feel like the most inflexible, least graceful person on earth, it’s easy to become demoralized by your performance. 

But don’t be discouraged! We all go through it and there are ways to prevent bad workouts from becoming a common occurrence. Sometimes reflecting on why it went so wrong is how you uncover issues in your training or your motivation. Here are 4 questions to ask yourself when you have a bad workout to figure out what is going on.

4 Questions to Ask When You Have a Bad Workout

What Were Your Limiting Factors?

So your workout sucked. Rather than think to yourself, “I’m just not good enough,” assess all the variables that contributed to your lack of success. What was the weather like? What and when did you eat before you worked out? How much sleep had you had? Are you under stress? These factors aren’t excuses for poor performance. They are the elements that need to be addressed so you’ll be in peak form for future workouts. Sometimes you can’t control these factors and that’s when it’s okay to give yourself a break and recognize it may have been out of your hands. But when you can control them, you’re giving yourself the best opportunity for success.

How Bad Do You Want It?

If a bad workout becomes the norm rather than a rare occurrence, it might be time to look at how much you want whatever it is you’re working out for. Sometimes we get caught up in a “goal” without really addressing whether that goal is something we really, desperately want. A couple of years ago, my main running goal was to run a 1:45 half marathon. I wanted it badly and throughout months and months of training, I didn’t let anything get in my way. I missed maybe 5 workouts in 6 months of training. I made sacrifices and if I didn’t have time to run or work out, I’d juggle everything I could to make the time. Contrast that to my recent marathon training experience. I signed up for the Vermont City Marathon thinking that training for a PR would be a great way to regain my fitness and running form following my second pregnancy. My training, however, betrayed my lack of drive for a PR. I just didn’t have the fire under me that needs to be there to really train effectively.

Think about the reason for your workout. What’s driving you? Is it enough? Is it something you truly believe in and want to work for? You may be surprised if you soul search a little to find that the motivation for your goal really isn’t there.

Are You Overtrained?

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Overtraining happens when we push ourselves past what our bodies are capable of, skimping on rest and recovery and thinking more is better. Symptoms of overtraining include lackluster performance, as well as fatigue and depression. If you’re experiencing bad workouts fairly regularly, think about whether you’re not getting the recovery your body needs to actually grow stronger and adapt to your workload. Sometimes cutting back on your workouts can actually improve performance.

What’s Your Mental State?

Just like there are mental exercises for improving your performance when exercising, a negative mental state can have a major impact on how your workout feels and your physical performance. If your workout was poor, take a moment to think about how you were feeling and what was going on in your mind. Were you giving yourself negative self talk? Are you going through a personal situation that’s consuming your thoughts and taking focus away from what you’re doing? Do you believe in your own ability? If you find yourself affected by your mental and emotional state, come up with a few ways to combat this the next time you’re working out. Whether it’s a 5 minute meditation, or using a positive mantra or phrase, or even just distracting yourself with music or working out with a friend, you can find ways of working around mental roadblocks.

So before you beat yourself up next time a workout just doesn’t go your way, try asking yourself these questions to see if you can prevent it from happening again. Finding an issue in training or motivation can be the first step to changing what you’re doing to ensure success. 

What do you do when you have a bad workout? Does it affect the next time you work out as well?


  1. I’m definitely one to valuate everything you’ve stated and then move on. I was watching the CrossFit documentary last night and that stuck in my mind with the competitors as well. They didn’t dwell they evaluated they moved forward
    Carla recently posted…Is OLD talk the new FAT talk?My Profile

  2. I’ve had bad workouts recently. So I decided to take a break for a couple days. To take a breather, you know?
    Tyler Kelly recently posted…Stress Free Landlording Ultimate GuideMy Profile


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