Depending on what you have going on in your life, your desire to train is going to shift dramatically from day to day. Additionally, how hard you can train, or your level of “daily readiness," is a direct product of your stress levels, quality of sleep, and nutrition among other factors that aren’t as easily controlled. You might have noticed that generally, out of 5 workouts: 3 will be average, 1 will be stellar, and 1 will be abysmal in terms of speed, strength, or work capacity. To tip the ratio in your favor, being able to develop a sense of where you fall on this daily spectrum is a useful tool.
The average adult has a sweet spot that lies somewhere between 7-10 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Depending on whether you tossed and turned all night, or woke up feeling like anything is possible, you can give yourself a rough rating between 1-5. Along the lines of stress, a huge project at work hanging over your head is going to affect your body differently than if you are heading into your first free weekend in months. Lastly, having a pop tart versus your usual breakfast of oatmeal, fruit, and protein could have an impact on the quality of your workout. Tie all of these factors in with your overall motivation to train, and you can get a pretty good idea of your daily readiness level.
As soon as you have some general idea of where you are at outside of the gym, the moment you start warming up can be a good indicator of how you’re going to perform that day. Are your muscles achy and tight? Is your knee tendonitis flaring up during your warmup set of squats? At this point I’d temper expectations on breaking that personal record, and try to get as many quality reps in as I can at lighter weights without going to complete failure. On the other hand, if you're all systems go during the warmup and weights that normally give you trouble are moving fast, you can likely push harder that session.
Once you are able to accurately gauge your daily readiness level, having a good, bad, or average workout becomes less important than being aware of what your body can currently handle and recover from in that instance. Many people notice that some of their best workouts come soon, or immediately after one of their worst. The most important thing take from this is the ability to be objective about the factors that influence your training, and use this information to intelligently gauge the appropriate level of exertion for every session.
- Chris Wu, CPT