Your alarm clock failed to go off, so you were late leaving for work. You get to work 10 minutes late, and find your new boss has a 'zero tolerance' policy for those who are late to work, and late coming back from the allotted half-hour lunch breaks. You sit down at your desk, and see an email from your girlfriend. Turns out she is dumping you for some guy she met on her last 'girls night out.' Worse yet, she goes on to tell you what a great personality he has, and that he is 'so much like you.' Worst of all that she thinks you two should meet and become friends.
With that, your thoughts turn from heartbreak to anger. You think "yeah right, I'd sooner tear out his spine!" You head to lunch and decide to go to one of your favorite delis. You walk in to see your now ex-girlfriend sitting at a table with her newfound love. To ad insult to injury, this guy has the body of a wet noodle, doesn't bother to shave, and dresses sloppy. I mean, this guy has the audacity to tuck in his shirt and not even wear a belt! You hurry back to work in order to not be late, only to find that the new boss in true 'lead by example' style, has decided to take a 3-hour lunch. The day continues to improve when you find out that management has decided the project you have busted your butt on for three weeks was not necessary after all. You leave work, feeling that life cannot get any worse at this point. Then you realize today is legs day at the gym. Your anxiety mounts, as you do not want all of your frustrations to interfere with your workout. You think, "what am I to do?"
Let's face it, we all have bad days. It's a fact of life, and something we cannot change. What is even more difficult is when we let bad days get us down. That can destroy your motivation and lead to a less than productive workout, which in turn will only add to your frustration.
The key is to be in control of your emotions and use them to your advantage. One may wonder how they can use the feelings brought on by losing their significant other to make gains at the gym. You make gains through mental discipline. What has to happen is that one has to focus not on the event, but rather on how the event makes you feel. Given that negative feelings can affect you physically like a drug, I have broken them down into two categories, depressants and stimulants.
Sadness, grief, rejection, despair, anxiety and sorrow all fall under this category. They sap your energy and motivation, and make just want to crawl into a corner and hide. These feelings are dangerous to your bodybuilding goals. The best thing to do is to force yourself to forget about them when working out.
Rage, fury, and hatred fall into this category. Instead of sapping your strength, they cause you to lash out with a sudden burst of energy. Do not let yourself be controlled by them, or you will lose focus. The thing to do with these emotions is to focus on them and use them. If controlled properly, they can prove to be very useful.
Most of us do some type of mental preparation before a workout, usually while changing and warming up. If you have had a bad day filled with negative emotions, start by forgetting the events themselves; focus only on how they make you feel. Good mental discipline comes from discarding those feelings that will hinder your workouts, and harnessing those that can help. If for example, losing your girlfriend incites feelings of sorrow and anger, discard the sorrow and focus on the anger. Forget WHY it made you angry, focus only on the anger itself for it is all that matters. As you mentally break down each event throughout the day, discarding the depressant emotions, and harnessing the stimulants, force yourself into a state of calm and focus. Allow all the energies to build up inside. Compare it to a dormant volcano that is now ready to unleash. The mountain itself does not explode, lashing out spastically in all different directions at once. Rather it waits until it reaches its breaking point, then all its energy surges out the top, focused where it is most powerful. You must force yourself into this state.
Once you are ready to start your heavy lifts, mentally psyche yourself up. Take deliberate, focused breaths as you fell the hatred course through your veins. Then, like the volcano, release all your stored up energy in a surge of rage and fury. Focus intently on your form, and do not let your feelings control you. All that matters is the energy rush surging through your muscles. That and staying completely focused on the task at hand. Upon completion of each set, rack your weights deliberately, but controlled. Do not go around dropping or slamming your weights after each set. That is a sign of not staying in control, and besides you will look like a complete spaz. As you progress through your workout, endorphins will start to kick in and you will generally start to feel better about things. By your workout's completion, you should be in a state of well being, or at least feel better than you did when you stepped in the door.
Good mental discipline does not come easy. However, it is essential for staying in control of our lives. Physical activity is by far the best way to relieve anxiety and stress. Think of all those sad people you know who drown their sorrows in the bar every night or who are addicted to drugs like Prozac. Are their lives really that much worse than ours? We all have days when life gets us down. What matters is what we do about it. You can either control life and make it work for you, or you allow life to control you. The choice is yours.