How do you know if you “failed” or “nailed” the workout?
How often do you head home from your workout thinking, I nailed that workout or rather, I failed that workout?
How do you judge the success or failure of your workouts? What criteria do you use to come to those conclusions? Do you base it off the weights you use or the paces you hit? If you hit the numbers you idealized before you started your workout, does that make it a success? If you fell a couple kilos short, did you fail?
Unveiling the truth necessitates another question: What is the purpose of a workout?
If you’re an athlete, workouts are practice for competition. Period. Each session seeks to prepare you for at least one challenge of competition. When you hit the gym or start the stopwatch, you aren’t entering a trial room. The worth of your session can’t be determined by numerical data because your body doesn’t register, process or adapt to numbers. Your body registers and responds accordingly to perceived efforts and loads. Humans created numbers to make sense of these loads, but your body can perceive the same load for different sums on the bar on different days.
You may squat 115k for 5 sets of 5 one day and put the same effort toward squatting 108k four days later when you slept less or are more stressed out. You may run 7:15 pace for 3 miles one day and 6:55 the next day without feeling like you’re working harder. Your body operates under cumulative load – which means physical stress (workout volume, etc) and emotional/life stress all factor in.
As athletes, if we determined the successes and failures of our workouts from numbers, we’d be in for a roller coaster of emotions.
How, then, do you determine whether your workout was a success or a failure?
Ask this question before you lace up your shoes: Keeping in mind the bigger picture of your training, what is the goal of this session?
If you show up and put in the effort that matches that purpose, you will accomplish your intended training stimulus, regardless of how the numbers stack up. Use paces and weights to track progress over time and assess whether you are heading toward your goal, not to judge the success or failure of a singular session.
If you’re frustrated with the outcome of your session and wish that the wind hadn’t made your intervals slower, or that your sore quads made squatting 108k as challenging as squatting 115k on a fresher day, be encouraged. The more obstacles you meet and overcome in practice, the more prepared you’ll be to face every challenge of competition.
— Coach Emily