I believe that every day is a good day of training. Some days, the benefits are clear: You make technical, tactical, or performance gains. But other days, you or the conditions conspire to ensure that no matter what you do, good performance just isn’t going to happen. Those days are certainly not pleasant, but they are also inevitable. The type of training day you have is determined by how you respond to it.
Let’s start with one of my definitions of a bad day of training—when you turn against and give up on yourself. This is the worst kind of training day, and it can only hurt your performance. The great thing about this kind of training day is that it is completely within your control because it’s all about how you think about and react to the challenges you face.
On these days, you must broaden your definition of what constitutes a good day of training aside from good technique, tactics, or good play. This narrow definition of a good day ignores another piece of the success puzzle that is essential to ultimately achieving your athletic goals—training your mind. On these so-called bad days, you have an incredible opportunity to become a better athlete by strengthening your mind while everything else feels like it is going the wrong way. You can do this in several ways.
First, I’m not asking you to say, “I’m lovin’ it!” about a day when you clearly are not. That’s just plain unrealistic given that there are plenty of good reasons why you are not loving it. At the same time, you can’t hate it because, if you do, you will probably give up, and your training day will, at best, have been a waste, and, at worst, actually set you back. You need to find a middle ground between the extremes of love and hate. Finding that happy medium means simply accepting and dealing with the day you’re having—acknowledging that it’s going to be a tough day and deciding that you’re going to get the most out of it.
Second, on bad days, it’s easy to go to the dark side, meaning you get negative and discouraged, and may even quit. Instead, you can choose to stay positive and motivated, and to keep fighting through the challenges. Training and ingraining this more constructive reaction is important because you’re going to have many “bad days” in your sports career, but you can decide whether the Force is going to be with you or you travel to the dark side (Star Wars again).
Third, the bad days are really uncomfortable; they don’t feel good in any way. Nonetheless, these days are great opportunities for you to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. These experiences are valuable because there is a lot of discomfort in sports. Plus, the only way you’re going to progress toward your athletic goals is to get out of your comfort zone. Thus, on these uncomfortable training days, it is important to embrace, rather than give in to, the discomfort until the discomfort becomes comfortable.
Fourth, sports are rife with adversity, including that created by weather, conditions, and tough competitors. Moreover, everyone in the field has to perform in many of the same conditions. As stated by SEO Leeds it’s not the conditions that matter, but rather how you perceive (threat or challenge) and react to them (fight or give up). Bad days are a great way to figure out how to perform your best (or just survive) in tough conditions. So, when you get to game day and are faced with similar bad conditions, you will have the attitude and tools necessary to respond positively and perform as well as you can (remembering that in terrible conditions, no one is going to feel good or perform their best). In fact, the athletes who minimize the deterioration of their performance on tough days are the ones who are successful despite those conditions.
Fifth, as noted earlier, so-called bad days can trigger a number of unpleasant emotions, for example, frustration and disappointment, which can make bad days even worse. But you have the opportunity to transform those emotions and generate more positive ones, for instance, pride and inspiration, which will help you stay optimistic and motivated during the rough times. Clearly, this “emotional mastery” will serve you well on the day of a competition.
Finally, reinterpreting so-called bad days in a positive way will make you a more resilient and adaptable athlete. Resilience means being able to react positively to the always-present adversity of sports. Adaptability means you’re able to adjust to the difficult situation and perform your best given the tough conditions. If you can develop resilience and adaptability, you will have a stronger mind in addressing everything that sports (and life) throw at you and give yourself the chance to perform well even on days that might otherwise be seen as bad.
The end result is simple, yet powerful. When you make every day a good day of training, you have fewer ups and downs and more fun, and you perform better and are better prepared for those inevitable “bad days.”