Here is your checklist for ensuring a productive workout:

  • Sleep: Did you achieve 8 hours? Do you feel rested?
  • Motivation: Do you want to complete the day’s workout?
  • Energy: Do you think you can complete the day’s workout?
  • Fueling: Have you eaten within 2 hours of your workout?

Unfortunately, your performance in the gym is dictated by your behaviors outside the gym. Instead of treating your training as all-or-nothing, auto-regulate your workout intensity with a pre-workout checklist. Assess your internal environment on a 1-5 scale, with 5 being great, and 1 being horrible:

Sleep:

Why it’s Important: No surprise here! While we sleep, our bodies release growth hormone, the hormone responsible for muscle growth, bone health, and fat loss. You need these crucial hours to rebuild the tissue you broke down during your workout.  Set a goal to achieve 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night.

Score 3 or Below: Think of one way you can easily add 30 minutes to your sleep schedule. Whether you go to bed 30 minutes early, or prepare breakfast the night before so that you can sleep in longer, your sleep is the key to your success. After several weeks, try to add another 30 minutes.

Score 4 or 5: If you wake up feeling rested, get ready to crush your workout! As your body recovers, challenge your strength and progress your workouts normally. 

Motivation:

Why It’s Important: In other words, do you want to complete the day’s workout? Willpower is an expendable resource: if it’s already low, then forcing yourself to perform a hard workout may only put you further in the hole. Approach your motivation strategically: taking it easy one day will help you stay motivated and take advantage of the days when you feel great.

Score 3 or Below: Stick with the lower end of the rep range (http://sparcathens.com/smart-strength/) on these days, and focus on just getting the workout completed. If you normally workout at an intensity of 80%, complete this day’s workout at 50%-60%. Get the work done, but leave some motivation in the tank.

Score 4 or 5: These days might be a great time to experiment with a harder exercise variation, try for an extra rep or two, or add on a conditioning finisher. Use this time to progress wisely.

Energy:

Why It’s Important: Do you think you can complete the day’s workout? You want to train to success, not failure. Even though you might have the motivation to complete a hard workout, your body might be saying otherwise. Aching muscles, tiredness, or feeling stressed can indicate low energy. Challenging yourself on low energy days can skyrocket your injury risk and set you up for failure.

Score 3 or Below: Choose a safer exercise variation, like the kettlebell racked squat (HYPERLINK) instead of the barbell back squat. Or, cut the weight back to a load you can confidently lift. Getting some form of quality work in on these low energy days will keep your goals on track, but keep the injuries at bay. Acknowledge that you are not at your best, and dial difficulty back to an intensity that sets you up for success.

Score 4 or 5: Progress your workouts normally. Strive to reach the top of the rep range, or progress in weight: Add 5-10lbs for upper body movements, and 10-15lbs for lower body movements.

Fueling:

Why It’s Important: What you put into your body literally fuels your workouts. Missing a meal will detract from your energy and deprive your muscles of the material it needs to grow. Strive to eat something 2 hours before your workout, or within 30 minutes of waking up in the morning. Look for foods that have a 1:1 up to 4:1 ratio of complex carbohydrate to protein.

Score 3 or Below: If you fail to eat before a workout then you are running on fumes. Don’t expect to break records or feel great. Your workout will only further break down your body, so adjust the volume. Cut out a few reps or sets so that the energy you do have will last until the end. Shorten the workout, then grab some food (http://sparcathens.com/importance-of-recovery-for-youth-athletes/).

Score 4 or 5: Since you fueled properly, get ready to turn that fuel into raw energy.

The harder the workout, the higher the carb to protein ratio should be. Use these days to push harder during conditioning, or add in some extra accessory work.