“What’s right is what’s left if you do everything else wrong.”

~Robin Williams

I often like to think, if you haven’t failed, then you haven’t been doing something long enough. We all love to succeed; who doesn’t like the feeling of a job well done, a goal accomplished? That is human nature; but the real gains are seen when we have to wade through the challenges.

Those of you have been doing your endurance sport of choice (cycling, running, multisport) have likely learned this lesson already; those of you newer to your sport, welcome! And be prepared for some bad days. Even we who have been athletes for a long time, it’s still easy to lose sight when things go awry on a day you had hoped to ‘nail it’. And that is understandable; you prepare, you do all the little things right, you leave no stone unturned; and on the day to perform, you expect to excel. But it doesn’t always work this way. Some days our bodies seem to fail us. Perhaps the harder we push, the more our numbers fall off. Maybe we feel fatigue when we didn’t expect it. It happens, but the most important thing you can do when you come across a bad workout or a sub-par race is to make something positive from it. Ultimately, it comes down to mindset, decisions we make, and attitude. Here are a few ways you can get past, and become stronger from, a lackluster day.

1) Learn from it. This is where attitude becomes crucial. It’s not so much ‘what happens to you’ that determines your character, but how you choose to respond. Give yourself a little time to reflect, be upset, but then ask yourself why you were off? Were you tired, did life stress contribute? Maybe you were underprepared or maybe you were overcooked.  These questions are not always the easiest to honestly ask oneself, but to grow from a bad day requires maturity and a bit of self-reflection. Did you give up on yourself? Can you recall what self-talk was going on during the session or race? I’ve long said that more is learned from the terrible races than the great ones. We realize why we are doing it in those miserable moments! We ask ourselves what we can do better. It is these situations that create opportunities for growth. So rather than sulk after a ‘failure’ of a performance, make the choice to learn from it.

2) Get away from it. This is so important. This is where the Life Balance is so valuable to be successful as an athlete. Focus on something else. A mediocre workout is often a bit easier to ‘move past’ than is a mediocre race, understandably since we have more build up for the events. But what about the friends or family who are at that race with you? While of course they understand your disappointment and likely share in it with you, do your best to go out, enjoy a coffee or an adult beverage with them, and let it go. One ritual my husband Derick and I often speak of is our ‘evening beer’, at which point we start to make dinner; shifting away from the day, discussing a few things from it but ultimately moving past and going into our chill mode for a few hours in the evening. Good days will happen; bad days will happen. Despite the good and bad, we have family, friends, and hopefully other passions and hobbies in our lives to focus on. Shake it off. Let it go. Life’s too short. 

3) Look towards the next.  The awesome thing about our fitness is that it’s malleable. We can let it slip at times, but we can also hone it; build it, improve it, and see the changes. There’s always another day to tackle the run, another race to set our sights on. Focus on what is ahead. If you are feeling stagnant, change it up. Maybe put a different kind of event on the horizon. Keep your eyes set on things that get you excited. Maybe you aim to tackle the same session the next week; go for it, because now you’re armed with what you learned from the last. Does this ensure perfection? Absolutely not; but I guarantee, you will go into it knowing something new about yourself to help the process. Don’t spend too long looking in the rearview. Use the past experiences to arm you with more knowledge, confidence and passion to embrace what is ahead.