Something is Better than Nothing

How many times have you put on your training clothes and/or driven to the gym and then had a complete mental/emotional block preventing you from following through on your training?

You just don’t want to do it. Maybe you’ve had a stressful day or woke up on the “wrong side of the bed.” You feel off—in a poor mood.

We all have those days.

But we shouldn’t throw in the towel!

There’s a large body of research proving that the thing we don’t want to do—EXERCISE—is exactly the thing we need most. With its feel-good, brain chemical-boosting powers (namely, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin and endorphin), exercise can have a positive impact on our mood almost immediately, as well as enable us to sleep better that night and have a better mental state the next day. That’s right—you’ll even feel better tomorrow! Recent research shows that exercise can promote a positive effect in people up 24-48 hours later.

So we really, really need to put in our training work on those days when we feel like we’d rather not. Of course, it goes without saying…but I’m going to say it anyway…this must-do-it-anyway approach only applies when you’re battling a mental block—not when your body doesn’t feel right and you think you might injure yourself; in those cases, ALWAYS listen to your body and focus on recovery/regeneration, not forcing yourself to train.

On the days you have to battle yourself to train, it’s important to keep your programming simple. And by strategizing in advance for those days, you can set yourself up for success.

For that reason, I’ve written myself five simple training sessions that don’t take much mental energy to follow but will still deliver the benefits I need to boost my mood and keep my training on track. On any given “bad mood” day, I just pick the plan that works best for me. For instance, if I’m feeling like I need to blow off steam, I tend to go with #3 — the med-ball slams and run circuit. For more on exercises to sweat out stress, check out my CNN article on the topic.

Below, I’ve shared my own “Better Than Nothing” programs. Feel free to use any/all of them or come up with your own. Regardless, I strongly recommend having five readily available to give you easy access to simple programming options on those days when something is definitely better than nothing.

#1 Five Sets of Ten: 10 pushups, 10 Kettlebell Goblet Squats

#2 Five Sets: Rowing (descending sets: 500, 400, 300, 200, 100 meters), 1/s Turkish GetUp

#3 Five Sets: 5/s Rotational and Straight Standing Med-Ball Slams, 200-yd Run

#4 Five Sets: Barbell Complex (3 rows, 3 frt squats, 3 presses), 3 Backbend Pushups or Dips

#5 Five Sets: 10 Kettlebell Swings, 5/s Kettlebell Single-leg RDLs, 10 Kettlebell Goblet Squats

Need help coming up with “Better than Nothing” programming or want to share some of your own?

Let me know in the comments below.

  • Questions or thoughts about this blog?

Don’t keep them to yourself! Comment below, so we can all join the discussion.

And please share this post with anyone you think could benefit from it. Click the social media sharing buttons to impact some lives now!!

  • Did someone forward this to you?


  • Already on my list but you’d like more content?
    Follow me on Instagram where I post regularly.

Related Posts

1 Comment. Leave new

  • Hi Dana thanks for really useful article. We definitely all have those days. Just getting started can be a huge obstacle for my clients (and me too!). Could you share any tips on how you deal mentally with getting over the line and into the routine.?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.