7 Steps To Getting Excited About Training Again
TRAINING SOMETIMES SUCKS.
Often, I completely hate training. I mope around in my studio swearing at the barbell and wishing I was somewhere else.
I used to think it was about trying harder or there was something wrong with me. I now know better.
I can take a step back and take the following advice which brings motivation and the love of training flooding back.
Training has to be for life. We are in it for the long haul. In the gym, as in life, there will be bumps in the road. Sometimes the bumps will be huge.
My hope is the following steps for success will help you to navigate some of those bumps.
1) Have some time off
Training can be monotonous and if you've been going after the same goals forever and have been pushing yourself to a point where you hate training, the best way to want to train again is to have a few days off.
This is especially true after a competition or after a particularly long block of training.
Time off can also be used as a tool when you hate training for no clear reason. Have a few days off. Get some things done that have been on your mind for months. Spend some extra time with your family or friends. Have some downtime. Enjoy a nap.
The recovery will do you good especially if you've been training hard, consistently for weeks or months on end.
2) Train at a lower RPE for a while
Note: RPE means 'rate of perceived exertion' and is a measurement of how much effort went into a particular set of exercise out of 10. 10/10 would be an incredibly difficult rep with no chance of adding any more weight to the bar or being able to perform the same rep again in the same session.
According to Lee Bell, an expert on overtraining:
"....when it comes to prolonged, hard, intensive training - more is not always better."
You can read his article HERE.
When you train at max-effort all the time, you'll tank quickly and run out of recovery resources.
Keep in mind, the longer you've been in a run-down state, the longer it may take for you to start feeling better. If you notice you don't feel better after a less mentally intense week, you may need to take more time where you purposely train in a more relaxed way. You may even allow some fun to creep into your sessions.
Training for a strength sport doesn't mean training always has to be miserable, but you have to be ok with it sometimes being tough
Training for strength or a strength sport doesn't mean training always has to be miserable. It will be sometimes. But it has to be sometimes, not always.
According to Lee Bell signs you are in need of time off or at least time off training at maximum intensity include:
Bad mood, low energy levels, and motivation.
Anxiety, restlessness, exhaustion, and poor sleep quality
There are many other factors involved, but in a rare occurrence, I'm staying on topic and keeping this directly related to mood. An increasing bad mood, a hatred of training, and anxiety around the gym isn't a sign you've lost love for your sport, it is a sign you are approaching the training for your sport/goals in a way that doesn't allow you to recover so you are paying for it mentally.
If you are still full of hatred towards it after rest, less intensity, and improving some of the other things we'll discuss below, then you may well have fallen out of love with your sport or training and need to try something new.
A client of mine recently had a bit of a meltdown due to taking on too much too soon. She had 4-5 days off the gym completely, slept a lot, and came back a completely different person. I can't promise a change as extreme as that in everyone, but some extra rest and a drop in intensity often have my clients reporting back with a huge improvement in mood.
With this improvement in mood comes a return of training drive. The person suddenly has the mental resources to see the beauty in training again without changing how the training plan looks on paper.
3) Build more adaptability and/or creativity into your training
To train effectively you need to be able to make decisions based on how you feel and perform on the day.
As James Clear says, successful training involves hundreds of good decisions group together.
Building adaptability into your training gives you more options and more opportunities to make good decisions.
You can include RPE (see above for more details) so you don't have to lift a particular weight. A set needs to be a particular difficulty instead so you aren't held to ransom by a particular weight you "have" to lift.
You might add rep ranges in to accommodate your fatigue levels, or to give you a chance to take it easier that day.
You may include optional exercises.
You may include blocks of exercise to be done in a certain amount of time.
You may even add entire optional sessions to your program.
The more adaptable your program is to your situation, the more likely you are to enjoy it because you can tailor it to your needs rather than you having to adapt a great deal to accommodate your program.
Building creativity into your programming can give you a sense of autonomy.
Unless every session is with a coach who looks after everything for you, your training week will involve hundreds of little decisions. With greater autonomy and decision-making abilities your training will be more fulfilling and effective too.
4) Get a coach
As great as autonomy is, having someone there to gently guide you (or firmly guide you if you need it) is of great importance.
A coach can help you to know you are doing the right thing. In my experience, this is one of the most motivating things you can experience.
If you are feeling lost with your own training. Bring in a coach at least in the short term. A 1-1 coach is best if you are a beginner/intermediate lifter or have lots of money and don't want to make many of your own decisions. An online coach is great if you want more direction to your programming, you need the accountability and you want your training to feel more exciting.
Because nothing beats the excitement of checking out your new plan for the first time. Apart from Christmas, opening a new box of shoes, when a good Fallout game comes out, going to Disney...
Okay, a couple of things beat it.
But having a coach is an excellent way to get excited for training again.
For further discussion of this topic, you can listen to me chatting to Strength Coach Farncombe about the effectiveness of online coaching below:
5) Try some new exercises variations
Strength training is monotonous. You do the same movements week in, week out. There can be beauty found in this monotony, but sometimes, it's ok to hate the movements sometimes. It doesn't make you a bad person. It means you are human.
So during less important blocks of training throw in some variations using bands and chains. Throw in some Jefferson deadlifts. Throw in some cool looking movements you've seen on Instagram assuming it isn't terrible.
Use that pendulum squat in the gym you've always been afraid of.
Indulge in an arm party.
Something I do, and I know many other coaches like Alan Thrall and Tony Gentilcore do too is programming "of choice" sections where people can do what they fancy.
I often program:
Arm party of your choice
Calves of your choice
Cardio of your choice
Farmers walk of your choice
and many other choices that don't come to mind right now.
Most people enjoy fun and being able to make a choice. Others are like "I PAY YOU TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO, CHRIS."
So I fire them.
Or am I?
6) Try new training methodologies (clusters, repeats, drop sets, etc)
This follows the same philosophy as above i.e. sometimes training is horrifically boring. Using things like cluster sets where you break sets up into mini-chunks with rest in-between, is a very effective tool. Utilizing drop-sets (very occasionally), 'fun' things like running the rack on dumbbell curls can give you training a nice kick of excitement.
Another fun method of training is picking a certain weight on a certain exercise and repeating and repeating the weight and the reps until it is a certain difficulty. These are called REPEATS.
Let's use an example. Let's say you are benching 100kg and you could relatively easily bench it for 6 repetitions but you purposely stop at 3 reps, which would be around a 7/10 RPE.
With repeats, you'd keep repeating the 100kg for 3 reps until it was a difficulty of your choosing.
Let's say you chose to keep benching 100kg for 3 reps until it was a 9/10RPE, your sets would look something like this:
This method makes your sessions more fluid, with no hard and fast amounts of sets. I've recently started using this method again and enjoyed it immensely.
You could add in some funky supersets for additional flavor.
Some favourite supersets of mine:
DB Goblet Squat/ Farmers Walk Variation
DB Curls/ Tricep Extension Variation
DB Flyes/DB Pullover/ DB Tricep Extention
KB Swing/ Reverse Crunches
TRX Rows with everything. My clients hate me.
As long as the method is remotely sensible and isn't going to turn your technique instantly to trash, throwing it in occasionally is usually all good. If you are unsure about anything you want to try, message or talk to a coach to make sure you are doing the right thing.
A word of caution; each time you come across a new variable to introduce to your training, don't throw it in immediately or you risk being a program hopper. Introduce the new variety as and when you need it or when agreed with your coach for best results.
7) Sort out some external variables
Here are some things outside of the gym that will quickly mess up your mentality towards training:
Your job sucking
Agreeing to too many hours
Self-sabotage and self-destructive behavior
Beating yourself up for struggling with any of the above
A lack of human contact
To name but a few things. Sort any number of the above and you'll feel better about training.
When you address the above you will find you suddenly are able to be motivated enough to not cry for an entire session.
Yup, an entire session.
I am making light of this situation, but there are many of you out there who will feel this low in many sessions. I don't think that's right.
In my experience, it's those who need to sort out things outside of the gym who feels like this. It isn't about trying harder, it isn't about being "the hardest worker in the room," it's about building good decision on good decision until you are in a place where you are as healthy as possible with fulfilling and positive relationships in your life.
They say abs are built in the kitchen not in the gym, it's similar with high motivation as it's created everywhere else but in the gym.
Improve the quality of the decisions in your life and you are going to have a higher quality of training life.
Training is a lifelong relationship requiring work, sacrifice and compromise. The above strategies will help keep that relationship fruitful and will help you work through the toughest patches in that relationship.
If you struggle, the worst thing you can do is beat yourself up for struggling because it's the most human thing imaginable.
Apply the strategies above will help you navigate that struggle. I would ask for you to pass this advice on to anyone who you feel will benefit from it. I know it's lots of people, so let's pass on the message.
Thank you for reading.
The Heavy Metal Strength coach