It happens to ALL of us

Some days you just don’t have it, no matter how hard you’re trying.

Yesterday was that day for me.

I was about 10 minutes into a boxing class when I realized I was not going to be setting any world records. I was sluggish. I was fatigued. And when the coach called out a particularly challenging sequence of combinations, I imploded.

“Combination One: Jab-cross-hook-cross-jab-hook-cross!”

Okay, no problem.

“Combination Two: Hook-cross-jab-cross-jab-hook-cross!”


“Now do Combination One and Combination Two back to back!”

Okay, I think I got it.

“Combination Three: Jab-cross-jab-hook-cross-hook-cross, GO!”

Can you say that again?

“Combination Four: Hook-cross-jab-hook-cross-hook-cross!”

Wait…what was Three?

“Now do Combination Three and Combination Four back to back!”

Can you show me number Three again?

“Now do the Combination I call out! Four!”

What the f*** is Four?


Hang on, I’m…

“Four again!”

What’s Two?

“Now do all four one after another!”

And basically it ended with me just flailing on the bag, hoping Coach wouldn’t see.

He did. And he said something about how he picked the wrong day for this drill.

None of us are invincible…

I may be a trainer, I may own two fitness studios, but in the end I’m really just a guy working out. I get called out in class, too. I have bad days, I struggle and stumble through workouts sometimes.

Oh, I could easily chalk up my flailing to a number of factors:

A poor night’s sleep.
Cognitive overload.
General fatigue.
And all of those are reasonable explanations.But the reality is; sometimes you just suck.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you don’t put in a very good performance. And that’s the way it goes.That’s fine. I’ve been there before so it’s not a big deal to me.The big deal for me, the breakthrough, was in how I dealt with it.

As I was melting down in class, I began what has been an almost unbroken, 49 year habit of self-abuse. A scathing, internal assessment of my value as a human being.

Unless you know me outside of the gyms you probably won’t know this about me:

I’m very, very tough on myself. I mean, tough. And cruel. And I began my traditional dressing down.

I won’t tell you what I say to myself about myself, but it’s ugly. And it’s mean. And none of it is true.

I’ve gained some ground on this in the last year or two, but it still pops up from time to time. The great part of what happened yesterday was that I caught myself right when it started and remembered something I had written in an email a few weeks back.

“You’re only one workout or one healthy meal away from being back on track.”

It was in the context of how a “cheat meal” can turn into a landslide if you’re not careful, but that if you catch yourself and remember that you’re only one workout or one healthy meal from being back on track you can keep yourself from disintegrating.

I deconstructed it even further.

“You’re only one combination away from being back on track.”

And, with that, I dug myself out of my despair, performed well on the next combination and finished the class feeling relatively good. It still wasn’t my finest hour, but I did the best I could with what I had and went home satisfied.

Stop and regroup

Here’s the deal and it’s something I have to keep reminding myself and practicing:

1. You’re not always going to be at your best. This happens even to the best athletes in the world. Muhammad Ali lost to Leon Spinks, for God’s sake. He was old and fading, but still…

2. You’re only one decision away from changing course. One tiny action. It might not be enough to change the entire trajectory of your life, but it’s almost always enough to direct you away from a path that is not serving you and toward a path that does.

In short, you can only do what you can do, right now, in this moment.

So, if you eat a donut and feel the desire to rip yourself apart for it, stop. Forgive yourself, take a deep breath, and go eat an apple. Back on track.

If you skip a workout and you feel like a piece of shit, drop down and do 10 push ups and a one minute plank. You’re back on track. You won’t undo the missed workout, but you’ve changed your trajectory away from dejection and self-judgement and toward purposeful action.

Beating yourself up does NOT work. This isn’t a touchy-feely, “hug your inner child” sentiment. This is pure science. The research shows that guilt and shame are not productive motivating forces, they simply end up compounding whatever isn’t working.

Do your best. Sometimes it sucks. That’s how life is. It’s not a measure of your value as a person, it’s simply a measure of what you had to give in that moment.

Brush it off, let yourself off the hook, and remember:

“You’re only one combination away from being back on track.”

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Jonathan Aluzas is co-owner of Arena Fitness, a fitness center that offers group training in Encino as well as personal training in Northridge.