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Is it better to go through the motions than not train at all?

The biggest thing about training that I preach to everyone is that consistency is the only way to get real long-lasting results. When you start training there should never be an “ending” in mind. Just a series of goals you’re always reaching for and re-evaluating as you go. That said, what do you do when you’re totally run down, you don’t have it in you to train. Either you’ve done too much that day or days leading up to this or your recovery is in the dumps due to poor sleep, nutrition or hydration. It could also be a combo of everything I just mentioned.

First off if you feel so run down you may be sick or feeling sick yes, a total rest day would be warranted but make sure you go right back to your training the next day. But keep reading to hear what you should be doing on these days.

If you’re feeling dead tired and you have a workout planned for that day don’t totally take it off. But also, don’t think you’re going to have a great workout and will be setting PR’s that day. Don’t try to mask your fatigue with caffeine and pre-workout supplements. Take yourself how you are and try to train at about a 5-7 RPE out of 10.

RPE stands for Rate of Perceived Exertion. This mean the level in which you feel like you’re pushing yourself to the absolute limit. Imagine how it felt doing the absolutely hardest workout of your life, whether it was pushing heavy weights around or doing an insanely hard conditioning workout or somewhere in between that was very hard and you didn’t think you could get through. That would be a 10 out 10 RPE for you. Don’t measure this based on the weight you did or the intensity that you trained at but measure this as to how you felt doing it. I say this because you could be dead tired and do a regular routine workout and it could be perceived as a 9 or 10 RPE.

If should actually approach most of your workouts to shoot for about a 7 RPE while planning to push it to a 9 or 10, 1 or 2 times in a month depending on your level of mastery in the gym. This way you would experience much more success and performance gain than always trying to push it to the limit. In fact, if you can master this you can use this same rule of thumb on the days you’re exhausted, because on these days your 7 RPE will be much less than what you usually do anyways. You can even go as low as a 5 RPE if needed, in this case you might just be doing a warm up and some light accessory work.

The point is, some people might see this as going through the motions and some might feel that if I can’t give it my absolute best there’s no point and they’re wasting their time. If you only trained on the days you felt great you’d barely ever get through a consistent month throughout the year. You’d actually be feeling worse more often that way vs. if you just showed up and went through the motions.

Two things happen when you always show up when you plan to even if you’re just going through the motions. First you engrain a habit so deep you’ll never consistently miss a workout no matter what’s going on in your life. Second you will stimulate an increased rate of recovery. By going through the motions and only training at an intensity level that won’t crush you the next day you’re sending a signal to the body to start the recovery process. Light activity will always be a better tool for recovery than pure rest where you go home and lay on the couch and do absolutely nothing. Taking the route of fully resting will actually leave you feeling more tired the next day leading into more days in which you don’t feel at your best.

Most of the time when people fall into this pattern is when their schedule gets a little too crazy and they have to be in a million different places throughout the week. My response to that is to plan accordingly and don’t put too much on your plate all at once easier said than done I know but make this a priority because it will keep your game elevated and performance at another level year-round. When you do get into this situation just go through the motions even if it’s going to a local commercial gym or working out at home getting a light workout in will help recovery. Other situations are when an athlete is inseason and in this case just getting 1-2 workouts in throughout the week for 30 mins-45 mins will suffice during the season to enhance recovery and maintain performance all season. Aim to do it when it’s most convent for you, the best time for this is actually right after practice or a game. In this situation you’re already warmed up, so you can go straight into a workout and at the end just finish with a cool down. It shouldn’t take more than 20-30 mins.

Here would be some example of active recovery workouts or “inseason workouts” that work great for maintaining strength and enhancing recovery

First perform a 10 minute dynamic warm up. If you want some great warm up routines check out our free warm up course!

Example 1

A1. Seated box jumps- 2x3

B1. Trap bar deadlift (concentric only) at about 40%-60% of maximum or a 5-7 out of 10 difficulty- 3x(3-5)

B2. Mobility filler or core bracing corrective-3x

C1. Cable face pulls- 2x20

C2. Banded hamstring curls- 2x20

Example 2

A1. Overhead med ball toss- 2x3

B1. Heavy sled push – 3x10yd

B2. Stability ball deadbug- 3x5/side

C1. Chain loaded push up- 2x5+

C2. YTW iso hold- 2x20 sec per letter

Example 3

A1. Bench plyo push ups- 2x5

A2. Box jump with weight vest- 2x3

B1. Bench press- 3x5

B2. Banded face pulls

C1. Banded tricep extensions- 100

C2. Banded hamstring curls- 100

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