There are days when you go to the gym to find yourself lifting heavier weights with more reps than ever before and feeling great during your cardio intervals, and they’re awesome. Though we all wish every workout went like this, we all have days where we’re a little off our game as well. While progress is generally gradual, it can be a real downer when the workout you’re normally doing every week seems a lot harder now than it used to. Did you lose muscle mass? Did your lungs all of a sudden forget how to control your oxygen intake as efficiently as possible? There are a few reasons why the workout you’ve been doing suddenly feels tougher, and it’s not because you’ve lost your fitness gains overnight.
1. You’re not taking rest days
If you think working the same muscle groups six to seven days a week with heavy weights is your best bet for quick muscle gain, then you’re doing your body a disservice by overtraining. According to ShapeFit, overtraining can happen when you’re putting too much physical stress on your body and not allowing yourself to rest enough between workouts. The story explains this matters because the rest period is what actually helps you build muscle after stressing yourself during exercise. If you don’t allow your muscles to rest, you’ll notice a decrease in performance, and you’ll feel burned out.
Your body can only withstand a certain amount of training in a set amount of time, so be sure to give it the rest and nutrients it needs to fully recover. This means making smart food choices as well.
2. You’re dehydrated
You’ve heard time and time again that you should be drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, but if you’re training hard, you may need even more. Athletes and those who train hard should aim to drink ½ ounce to 1 ounce of water for each pound of body weight every single day, says Verywell. If you’re 150 pounds, that means you need between 75 and 150 ounces a day. Without enough water, your workout may feel extremely tough today. Even mild dehydration makes a difference.
Sport Nutrition, Second Edition by Asker Jeukendrup, PhD, and Michael Gleeson, PhD, found exercise performance can be impaired if dehydrated by as little as 2% of your body weight. Once you lose more than 5% of your body weight, performance can decrease by as much as 30%. To make sure you’re performing your best, drink water throughout the day instead of saving it all for after you exercise.
3. You’re not eating the right foods before your workout
When it comes to fueling your workout, you should eat nutrient-dense foods. While it’s a good idea to eat carbs before your workout, chowing down on some white bread or white rice before a strength-training session may cause a sugar crash right in the middle of your workout. You’ll suddenly feel tired, drained, and unable to complete as many reps as you did previously.
Instead of reaching for something loaded with added sugar, grab a banana or a piece of whole-grain toast. Always plan to eat your pre-workout meal an hour or two before your workout begins, so you can get the energy benefits from those carbs. And be sure to eat plenty of protein during the rest of the day to ensure adequate recovery. BuzzFeed recommends adding chickpeas, egg whites, Greek yogurt, and grilled chicken breast to your meals.
4. You’re stressed
If you find you just can’t get into the groove of your normal workout after a hectic day, the stress could be making today’s gym session feel harder than yesterday’s. According to Dr. Mercola, your high stress levels could keep you from recovering adequately, making your weight lifting and cardio sessions later in the week feel terrible. Because exercise itself is a form of stress on the body, adding chronic stress (like the stress you experience at home or at work) to the equation can impair your body’s ability to recover. Stress can also lead to sleep troubles, which is bad news for your workout.
If you find your gym performance is suffering as a result of home and work stress, then we recommend trying some yoga or meditation to help you relax.