Six Ways to Feel Better After a Bad Workout

October 7th 2019

Have you ever gone to the gym, laced your sneakers, had the motivation for a workout, but after the workout you end up feeling unaccomplished? Guess what… that is completely normal and okay! While the feeling of not finishing a workout or experiencing muscle failure sucks (especially in front of other people), you should not be afraid as it is a common occurrence among exercisers. 

Sometimes the reason behind a bad workout can be due to your mood. Maybe you were not feeling it today and just wanted to go back to bed. Or the reason could be that you have a million other things to do and the last thing you want to actually focus on is working out. Whatever the reason may be, it is important to evaluate why that happened, and how to fix it. 

Self-confidence and satisfaction of a workout is a crucial component of motivation and progression. Without those two variables, the equation will not work. Therefore, you must be able to achieve those variables after a workout. Luckily for you, I have six simple and easy ways to feel better after a bad workout! These will be guaranteed to help you achieve the satisfaction and self-confidence you usually feel after a typical workout.

Bad Day At The Gym

If you go to the gym long enough, you will most likely have encountered a bad day. In order to overpower your bad day at the gym, you will need to change your mindset about the situation, and learn how to pivot to make the best of a poor event.

The Power of An Optimistic Mind

Over time, research and multiple life stories has demonstrated the power of having a positive mindset. A positive mind is one that looks forward to new changes in lifestyle, or new challenges, and they tend to persevere difficult times through their resilience. Specifically, 

certain psychosocial factors such as having strong social support, being resilient in stressful situations, and most importantly, being optimistic is crucial to achieve the success of having a positive mindset. For instance, an individual with higher optimism may believe they are less inclined to endure future health hazards (Davidson and Prkachin 1997). Further research had noticed that this belief of having a good, positive outcome on one’s own health had decreased an individual’s chance of being diagnosed with chronic illnesses. With an outcome like that, it is hard to disagree why you would not want to have an optimistic mindset. 

In fact, it is so important to have a positive mindset, that even a small part of negative thinking can cognitively and emotionally influence someone for a long period of time. At the University of Exeter Medical School in the United Kingdom, a meta-analysis was conducted that included “standardized measures of perseverative negative thinking and depression, anxiety or emotional distress, and which presented prospective associations” (Trick, Watkins, Windeatt, Dickens 2016). It was discovered that negative thinking was highly correlated with emotional illnesses such as depression, anxiety and emotional distress. The article also expanded on the possibility of negative thinking and how it is related to poor medical outcomes and greater health disparities. 

While having an optimistic mind is important, it is also important to evaluate and understand why you had a bad workout and what you can do to combat that. As stated in the previous paragraphs, there is value in being optimistic and having a positive mindset. A negative thinker is only going to receive negative results. In order to make things simpler, I have compiled a list of five ways to feel better after a workout.

The Six Wonders of the World to Make You Feel Better After a Bad Workout

  • Focus on the Goals 

Working on goals (ones that are achievable and realistic) are not supposed to be easy. If you could not accomplish your workout goals, maybe it is time to find a new goal. Instead of going at a higher intensity with a low number of repetitions, maybe try a lower intensity with a higher number of repetitions. Do not be afraid to switch up your routine and adjust your training to how your body reacts. 

Especially for beginner lifters, it is important to clearly and decisively have a goal to work towards. Even if you do not know what it is, pick something specific and work towards that. For instance, if you want to get stronger at the gym and know that you need to lift heavy barbells but do not know what you want to do exactly, here is where I can share my experience. For these beginner lifters, you should focus on general and functional strength through the four basic barbell lifts - the squat, bench press, overhead press and deadlift. Starting Strength is great at nailing down the basics and allowing you to set up a solid foundation to build your goals. 

  • Work on the Good Stuff

If you noticed that all of your push movement exercises were really difficult to perform, it might be wise to try a pull movement exercise set instead. Just working on something is better than nothing.

  • Do not forget you are doing something!

Getting up and off of the couch to the gym is still an awesome accomplishment. If you think about it, there are people out there who are still on the couch…but not you! Really get excited about those little victories from the day because they will motivate you.

  • Forget About It

Sometimes the workout is difficult, complicated, and possibly it was just a huge mess. It is important to realize when to dwell on something and when not to. Again, the positive mindset should help in keeping an optimistic attitude for the next workout. 

  • Create Little Goals to Motivate You

When going on a road trip, one will usually drive from point A to point B. Usually they do not drive all the way through. They could stop at an exciting city, or a rest stop along the way. Just like your road trip to your ultimate goal, progress takes many stops along the way. By creating small goals, you will be able to overcome bad workouts, and you will be better motivated.

  • Try to Rest

Lastly, try your best to take a load off, or decrease the intensity to give your muscles time to heal. Sometimes, it is better to take a rest day or lower the intensity your muscles are experiencing so that they are not overworked. While this is not an ideal option, it may be the best option for you at the moment. 


Remember, at the end of the day, a bad workout is better than no workout at all. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of the rapid progress and body definition pictures, but it is important to realize that having one bad workout is not going to stop all the hard work you have completed. There will always be a new day, so do not be discouraged. The sun will rise, and we will try again; because the worst thing you can do is give up.


“5 Ways to Get Past a Crappy Workout.” Accessed September 4, 2019.

 “Optimism and Unrealistic Optimism Have an Interacting Impact on Health-Promoting Behavior and Knowledge Changes.” Accessed September 3, 2019.

Trick, Leanne, Edward Watkins, Stacey Windeatt, and Chris Dickens. “The Association of Perseverative Negative Thinking with Depression, Anxiety and Emotional Distress in People with Long Term Conditions: A Systematic Review.” Journal of Psychosomatic Research 91 (2016): 89–101.

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