Today was a tough day at the gym. I missed or skipped 25 reps out of a possible 65 with my target weights over 3 exercises. It was absolutely brutal. It was my own fault -- I only got about 5 hours of sleep last night and I'd eaten very little all day, but it was still rough.
But it was also one of the best days I've had at the gym in a long time.
When I arrived at the gym, a middle-aged couple was using the only squat rack. I asked how much longer they had, then went and warmed up while they were finishing. They let me know when they were done, I started squatting and they went over to do some other exercises.
The squats were brutal. I only got 4 reps on my first set, then another 4, and then only 2 on my third. I was furious at myself, but I calmed down and realized that today was obviously an off day, so I dropped the weight by 50 lbs and started doing sets of 10.
After my first set of 10, the wife who had been using the squat rack before me came over and complimented me on my squats. She was impressed with the amount of weight I was squatting and the fact that I was squatting below parallel. We talked for a while about lifting -- she and her husband have been lifting weights together for over 20 years!
That little conversation was the boost I needed to get through what was, up to that point, an extremely frustrating workout. While I was busy berating myself about my poor performance, that couple was watching me work out and saw me working hard and moving a respectable amount of weight.
It's a reminder that we're always our own harshest critics. Sure, I didn't do as well as I'd hoped to do today. I failed miserably by the standards I set for myself. But the important part, the part that that nice couple saw, was that I kept working hard despite the frustration and turned what could have been a completely wasted workout into something productive, at least.
Sometimes it's nice to be able to get a glimpse of yourself from a stranger's point of view. It's even better when that glimpse shows you something better than you expected.