We've all had those moments...
You walk into the gym, set your bag down, and stare at the squat rack as if the weights were going to lift themselves.
You sit there a few minutes and just stare....
Your mind is either a runway of too many stressful things, or it's an empty canvas that would just rather be mindlessly watching The Walking Dead.
Either way... training seems a chore right now. More than it ever has. And it's been that way for a few weeks and you can't seem to shake it.
Yeah, one of those moments.
It's actually pretty common for me to get coaching requests from online clients that start with this scenario. For whatever reason, (usually coming off a few meets/shows, or went through a stressful period), they just can't seem to find their groove in the gym.
Having been through my own share of personal things the past two years (divorce, possible job relocations, heartaches, kid's broken arm...), I have found myself in some slumps. A few times it was just a day or two of what I would call "acute" stress (something unexpected happened, but resolved itself quickly). Then other times it seemed to drag on longer... and those were the slumps that were harder to get over.
A few lessons learned that may help when stress takes over your motivation....
1. Outsource your programming. 10 times out of 10, I stayed motivated and focused when I was being coached. Whether it was meet prep, show prep, or off season. Program in hand, I could just clear my head and do what was written. In fact, it almost allowed me to push harder.
2. Adjust your training (or have your coach do it). Stress is stress to the body, no matter what kind of stress it is. Sometimes our lack of motivation comes from a couple piss poor workouts strung together. We didn't hit the numbers we wanted or things didn't go as planned and then we feel even more defeated than we did before. Adjust before it heads down that route. Keeping the training at a level where you are "successful" can keep your head in a positive mindset. (Which leads back to outsourcing... letting your coach worry about that.)
I think once in awhile if you're "not feeling it," it's ok to give yourself a free pass and leave. The danger in that is if the lack of motivation continues then before you know it, you've been out of the gym for a month. Better to adjust your training, or rework some fresh new things in there to keep you coming back. It may feel forced for a bit, but a quick 45 minute swole session is better than missing 3 months.
3. Walk, breathe, or have quiet time. When my kids stopped napping, I still made them go in their rooms for at least an hour. Sometimes they fell asleep. Sometimes they read books. Sometimes they played quietly. Point here is even as adults, we need times to shut our brains down. Learning to be completely still is... well, a learned thing. Sometimes we make ourselves busy because we think we need to be. The power of 15 minutes of nothing can be a huge stress relief, and letting your body to return to parasympathetic. Giving yourself these moments daily will refresh your mind and body and give you a bit of a push to train.
4. Change training gears. I also have many clients coming to me who are strong men/women looking for a bodybuilding focus for a bit. Or bodybuilders who need a new focus of getting stronger. Sometimes getting out of your typical element is enough change so that when you return to your home base, you feel energized to get back to it.
This past week was a struggle for me, so these concepts are fresh in my mind. I would get through my main exercise and just be ready to leave. I made myself stay, not because I needed to "exercise" or anything like that. But because I knew in the end it would be better for me. My other option (especially on the days the kids were gone) was to sit around and create more stress for myself. Only when I was ready and needed a moment to face my issues did I stop, intentionally, to do so.
The gym doesn't make me bury my crap. It doesn't make me push my stress down hoping to suffocate it and never face it again. In fact, the gym allows me to better handle it. I have learned that it's ok to "escape" life for an hour... let your mind be free of the junk that builds... creates a more patient, understanding and level headed person... so when it is time to face the demons, I am fully prepared.