No matter how long you’ve been training, you’re still likely to experience less-than-optimal levels of motivation from time to time. You’re sitting in your car in front of the gym, thinking about your approach to today’s training — quads and bi’s — and you aren’t really up for it. After being competitive in powerlifting for 13 years now, this scenario is all too familiar to me. But I’ve come to realize several things: First, training for size and strength is my way of life; second, I’d like to win the Nationals and Worlds a few more times; and third, sometimes I just won’t feel like training.
So the big question is: How do you adjust your workout to make gains, even though you aren’t quite up to training? Let’s look first at training-specific changes.
Challenge & Rest
Much has been written in the past about periodized training. This concept has been around since the early 1900s, and at a basic level, it recognizes that:
1) a body must be challenged to grow,
2) a body must recuperate to grow,
3) if the challenge outweighs recuperation or vice versa, gains won’t occur.
Most athletes think a “no pain, no gain” attitude is required for maximum gains, when actually overreaching and overtraining are the more common results. Periodized training offers a way to avoid overreaching and overtraining and also avert loss of motivation, one of the most debilitating consequences of being overreached/overtrained.
First, recognize that virtually any muscular challenge will result in positive adaptations. Second, depending on your particular goals, the muscular challenge can be changed via various training-specific parameters. Take a look at what you’ve been doing over the last month. Have your sets, reps, intensity, and frequency of training remained constant? Have you grouped your muscle groups together in the same order throughout? Have you performed the same exercises for each muscle group? Have your training days and times been the same?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, a change is in order. Remember, a lack of motivation may be the first symptom associated with overreaching, an acute short-term version of overtraining. If you continue on the same path, you will overtrain. Changing your workout will challenge your body to a new growth pattern, but keep one thing in mind — more is not better!
Because motivation is also a mental challenge, you need to assess your training from the mental side as well. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that by solely addressing the physical aspects of motivation, you’ll find the answers.
From the psychological perspective, lack of a training plan and loss of fun, focus, confidence, belief in your training and a positive attitude can all contribute to decreased motivation. For positive change to occur, you must analyze which variable affects you most.