Good days and bad days
At the gym, some days you just wanna rip the weight off the floor and do crazy shit with it. The bell just flies up. You feel invincible. On these days, pressing the 32 kg bell (half my bodyweight) requires minimal to zero warmup, no need to amp myself up or any such thing. I just need a few seconds of focus and punch it up.
And there are some days when the bell feels oh-so-heavy, and you are sluggish and the warmup feels like a workout itself. On these days, even pressing a 24 kg bell feels like work. Only after a reasonable amount of mobilisation work and warmup do I feel greased and even then, it feels (when I compare it to the first instance) like I did half the work.
You cannot control this. There are just way too many days, with their own stories and intricacies and uncontrollables and beers and cakes and work stress and all that. What you do control is showing up to the gym.
And what you control once you are there is doing your best. Not checking a box, not lounging in the corner, not checking your phone half the time, mentally checked out and physically too.
Best day is not equal to best day ever
But you confuse pressing the 32 kg with your best and pressing the 24 kg with sub-par. And therein lies the problem.
Do your best. For that day. It might mean working with a 32 kg bell. It might mean setting a Personal Record (PR). Or it might mean working with a 16 kg bell. Or it might mean going on a walk, or doing surya namaskaram only, and skipping the weight training.
Your best is NOT about quantity. Your best is not about output.
In fact, your best on a not-so-great day might not even be high on quality. Some days, your body just takes over. You go based on feel, and you are graceful and fluid. Some days, it feels like you have 3 left feet and one hand.
What do you do? Simple. You do your best.
Drained vs recharged
This doesn't mean shitty reps. Your best, even though it might be lower quality than your best best, is still you being disciplined to be present and lift to the best of your abilities on that day.
Your best definitely means showing up.
Your best means you be non-judgmental about it. On a great day as well. Oh, you can certainly celebrate the good things, but stop critiquing yourself. Instead, just watch, learn, and chalk it down as a lesson for another day.
This is a lesson I've learned the hard way at the gym.
Previously, my attitude would be to beat myself up for not being at my peak. Blaming the previous night's activities or whatever.
I'd also try to hit those numbers regardless of how I am feeling physically or mentally. All of this left me even more drained than ever. My training session which was meant to recharge me left me more drained.
Taking it out of the gym and into the rest of the day
Some days are low energy days. Some days, the grumpy goose is up. Some days, the sun is shining inside your head.
What you can do is simple - just do your best.
Instead of trying to define your best for that day as "the best ever", do your best for that day - in that context, in those constraints.
Instead of being judgmental and annoyed at yourself, drop it. It is not about output, and it is not about matching the PR. Not every day can be a PR day.
But every day, you can hit your best for that day.
It is an attitude.
Just do your best. For today.
Tomorrow is another day.
Learning this lesson at the gym took me a few years, and with more awareness, I've had a lot more of recharge sessions than draining sessions. Applying this lesson to the larger field of life is something I struggle with. But the lesson is right, and works for me. The rest is simple - action. And by that, I mean, I need to do my best.