Lifting, good days, bad days, it’s all part of the process

I’m no psychologist, that’s a fact, but I wanted to share my views on the battles that I sometimes have with my training and competing.

We all have these I’m sure, but the general message you may get from social media is that everyone is generally on top of their game. I am like this. I put up the odd post which details a failed session but generally I like to be upbeat and positive whenever I post. 

Speaking from my own perspective, I am not always up for training and sometimes the thought of it can suck the fun right out of my day.  I would however say that for every 10 occasions I feel like this, I would only have one bad session.  So 9 times out of 10, the thought of it is worse than the reality.

I think the main influences on my training motivation (good and bad) are 

  • How recovered I am from my previous session
  • The perception of how hard the session may be 
  • The fear of coming up short
  • The excitement of chasing a new Personal Best (can be both a positive and a negative emotion)
  • Others factors in my life which may either be good or bad
  • An impending competition (again, positive and negative emotions)
  • Boasting about my achievements on social media if I hit the mark?

Some of my favourite sessions have come post comp. The pressure is off. I am training for fun and not because I am chasing another MSWC rank or trying to beat the person next to me.  I wouldn’t even say that I love competing. Certainly not the build up to it. Retrospectively yes, providing it has gone well then I can feel very elated. But like most, I am full of apprehension just prior to the lift.

Once lifting, a different set of emotions take over. Depending on the lift, I will have many negative thoughts as well as positive ones in that 30 or 60 minute journey. Lifting when you have the negative demon on your shoulder is brutally hard. For me, it happens around the 6-7 minute mark in a 10 minute lift and around 20 or 40 minutes for the half and one hour lifts. But I have accepted now that it’s okay to feel like this. It’s normal and most lifters go through it. Take comfort in that. You will come out the other side. In my most recent one hour double 16 half snatch marathon, I was so desperate to stop at the 35 minute mark. I so nearly did. I know however how shitty you feel once you do stop. It’s the worst!

But then, almost by magic, I hit the 40 minute mark and I was buzzing. My pace noticeably picked up and I felt 100% positive that I would reach the end. Did something happen physiologically to make this happen? Certainly not, it was just a sudden mind set shift. The mind normally packs up before the body, strong mindset, strong performance. 

If I am feeling particularly negative pre session about a particular workout then quite simply I will change it. Even if it’s during the session itself. Always best to salvage something. Recently I had planned a 3 x 10 minute double LC session with the 20 kg bells with 5 minute rest breaks.  4 minutes into the first set I realised it just wasn’t happening. So, on the fly I switched it to 6 x 5 minutes with 2 minute 30second breaks. Same overall workload and similar overall breaks but an entirely more manageable session. 

Other times, even in pre competition training, I will lift without goals and targets. I will lift purely for fun. Not every session has to be goal driven.

I also have default sessions I rely on in times of crisis. For marathon, this is 4 x 8 minutes with a 4 minute break after each set. It’s still a relevant session in terms of workload for marathon but the sets are short enough that I can usually muster the enthusiasm to get them done.  The rest breaks are nice and long as well. For double long cycle, it is 10 x 1 minute on/off. This can be brutally hard but you’re only ever a minute away from a rest. 

Another fix for me is to get it done early if possible. Hard sessions can really play on the mind so get it done as soon as possible and don’t stew on it all day. 

Accountability is also a big factor. I am currently not coached but I have been in the past. This again is both a blessing and a curse. On the shit days you now have someone else to explain yourself too. But it can certainly pull you out of a dark hole as well. You’re far more likely to complete a session that has been set for you if you’re feeling a little less than motivated. You really don’t want to let your coach down. 

Social media can help too. We all like to have a bit of adulation when we put in a good session. Nothing wrong with that. If videoing your set helps you get it done then why not. Facebook live is the ultimate expression of this. Chances are people will only see a snippet of you lifting but you don’t know who maybe watching or when. I use social media a lot in my training. Lots of times I will Video for the purpose of counting reps after. I then just put it up on my page. Nobody is going to watch it but it’s there anyway. 

This sport of ours is brutally hard. We all want to get better. At 52, I am still improving and this is my biggest motivator of all. As a late starter to the kettlebell game, I still have my best years in front of me. This would almost certainly not be the case if I had started lifting in my thirties.  

Accept the highs and lows. Don’t beat yourself up after a less than perfect session. You get to fight another day.