No Garbage Reps
Updated: Jun 14, 2021
I am struggling through a challenging workout these days that I stream online daily from the Beachbody website. Primarily weight-based training, this particular instructor regularly repeats her mantra for workout success:
No garbage reps.
For her, and the workout gurus that follow along each day, it means to put your mind in the muscle and commit 100% to each repetition of the exercise, executing it perfectly and mindfully. If we are too tired to hold our form, drop the weights. If we need to catch our breath, we allow ourselves to pause and refocus so we are ready for the next one. It is better to do 8 perfect repetitions than 12 somewhat sloppy ones. Less is more. Progress happens when we treat each movement, each repetition, like it is the only thing that matters.
No garbage reps. That really keeps me honest during my session. And it really got me thinking. What if we replaced “reps” with “days” and made the same commitment? Our mantra for any day that ends in “y” would then be:
No garbage days.
What would that look like? What does a no garbage day really mean?
I think we must hit the ground running. Upon waking up, reminding ourselves that this day - this next 24 hours - is a gift. It is an opportunity to live and love and choose and laugh and conquer. And while this day offers zero guarantees that it will be a perfect day (based on our own metrics related to perfection), the day offers us the opportunity to work like hell to make it so. This day. These hours before us. Do something. Do lots of things. Do anything. But don’t allow those hours to just be wasted and essentially treated like they don’t matter. Don’t treat the precious gift of time like garbage. I’m not in the habit of quoting old German writers but his presence here is warranted. Goethe sums up so perfectly how I feel when I need to reframe my mindset about what lies ahead. He wrote “nothing is worth more than this day.” I couldn’t agree more.
It is our responsibility to ourselves to put forth our best efforts to fill the day with whatever it is we want. Not just activities, but feelings and emotions, too. People lament - ‘I’m having a bad day.’ It happens. I’ve been there. But then I remind myself that feeling bad is not the day’s fault in any way whatsoever. Feelings are mine. Feelings are my choice. And I can decide to have a bad day or decide to have a different kind of day. Deciding to have a bad day would absolutely qualify as a garbage day. It is like surrendering your personal power. Let’s not do that.
Each day requires us to have a little faith in the process, just like each workout. We head into most activities with the full understanding that what we are doing in this moment is not necessarily the end of the story. One single hard workout is not going to get me to my fitness goals, but it will get me closer than had I spent that time on the sofa. A no garbage day is the understanding that progress is a process. This day, combined with all of the others in which we choose to act, is how change is possible. Big huge goals are still completed one day, one little task at a time. Focus in on the steps, and make each step count by staying focused and committed to the integrity of that behavior. No garbage days.
Effort matters. If you are going to bother to take the time to do something, do it right. Do it like only you can do it. Do it with your heart and full attention. Do it knowing that while it may not matter to others, it absolutely matters to you. I feel amazing when I commit to the task before me with excitement and energy and a gleam in my eye that feels a whole lot like pride. It doesn’t matter that it is a grocery list. It is the best damn grocery list I can make, using my resources wisely, feeding my family well, and representing one more thing that I can say I did well. That commitment - to whatever you do - will never be looked upon as a garbage day. When I lift weights I commit to that task. It may not be glamorous but when I’m done, I have truly earned the self-praise that follows.
Every repetition with weights is not perfect. It simply can’t be. Every day is not perfect. But when we encounter an obstacle, or even an abstract threat to equilibrium, we can jump into action. We pause. We reevaluate. We slow down. We reduce our commitments. We temper our expectations. We put our feelings in check. We lean in to the challenge. We take a deep breath. And we remind ourselves that each day - THIS day - matters. When we commit to doing our best, adjusting our expectations, and insisting on getting it done, we succeed. We learn and change and build strength and challenge our limits. It is all about meeting or exceeding our own expectations, holding ourselves accountable for the time we spend doing it, and coming back the next day to do it all again. That is success.
No garbage reps.
No garbage days.
Remember it for weight training - and life.