If you are involved in some form of athletics, whether it be gymnastics, crossfit, triathlons or even just working out, it’s quite possible you love the competition or results aspect (if we are speaking of just working out in the gym) of your sport and maybe have a love/hate relationship with the training aspect.

If you think you are alone, don’t fret, you definitely aren’t. I’m here to tell you it’s perfectly normal to have negative feelings and possibly dread practice, training or going in for a workout. While this may not be the most desirable feelings to have towards something you are dedicating a lot of energy to, it doesn’t necessarily mean you dislike what you are doing. It just means your mindset going in might need some readjusting.

Let’s consider first where this dread may come from.

Stress/Overwhelming: You wake up in the morning, and your first thought is “oh man, I need to put in at least a 10 mile run today,” or “ugh!, coach said we are doing strength circuits for an hour at the end of practice today.”

Immediately your brain is trying to process everything you have to accomplish in your workout that day and that can be quite stressful or overwhelming. You are thinking already of the end result, which includes everything leading up to it. This is a lot for anyone to mentally handle.

Solution: Focus on the process as it comes to you instead of everything you think you need to accomplish. Literally put your head in the moment and do the first thing that leads up to that ending. Try not to go in to your day with some big, elaborate plan with your training. All you have to do is start the process with something and then build on top of it. This will help alleviate those overwhelming feelings of knowing you have a huge list of training items to knock out that day.

When I wake up, I don’t have a plan at all. I just know I’m going to train and I literally start the process by getting dressed for my workout. At this point, I’m still not thinking of what I have to do. I drive myself to the gym, stretch and then immediately just do something. I may go in to the basketball court area and just start running or jump up on a pull up bar. I’m not thinking, just doing. I still don’t know what’s coming next, but I just continue to build on what I did before. Before you know it, it’s been an hour, you are exhausted and you feel great. If I had looked at a list of everything on paper of what I did before my workout, I would have thought about it and stressed over it until it was complete.

Fear: Fearing anything you may be working on that day can certainly make anyone lose their excitement for training. Fear is one of the worst enemies to an athlete’s confidence and progress. I remember when I was training for my first triathlon, I developed a slight fear of the swim portion and really began to dread training for it. It got to where I would even start to think about my swim day the night before and would lose sleep over it.

Solution: Sit down and think and really get to the bottom of what specifically is causing your fear. Typically if there is something you are afraid of, you are probably not proficient at that particular thing or skill. More than likely, if you were to see improvement in that area, you would probably start to feel a little more comfortable. Once you have identified where your fear lies, break that skill or apparatus or whatever it may be down in to parts and try to find small “safe” ways to improve and train for it.

For Example: I had to figure out what was going on with my swim, so I did in fact take some time to try to figure out where this fear was coming from. I discovered that as I began to tire in my swim, I would begin to struggle with my breathing technique and would eventually almost panic. When this happened, I would immediately resort to a breaststroke to try to recover. Not exactly the best way to to swim if you are trying to be competitive in a race.

To fix the problem, I started working on some comfortable ways to work on my breathing technique. I used paddle boards, did some basic breathing techniques while stationary etc. I didn’t mind going to train for this because it seemed non-threatening to me. Eventually, I began to get more comfortable with it and slowly started to enjoy my swim training simply because I started to see improvements.

Repetition: This one may not apply to everyone. If you are involved in training where you are being coached, it is the coach’s responsibility to make each day interesting, different and challenging. However, if you are on your own and maybe just hitting the gym or training for a triathlon without a coach, sometimes you can get stuck in the proverbial rut. Things become dull and uninteresting simply because you are repeating a lot of the same things over and over.

Solution: Change! I know it sounds ridiculously simple and it is really, but sometimes people get comfortable or complacent and don’t see the need to go try something different. The thought process is that it has worked in the past so there is no reason to do things differently. Not true!

I remember my aunt and I were chatting one day about her recent dedication to going to the gym. She had been going for a few months and had already developed a sense of dread each day. She was not enjoying it at all. I asked her what she was doing in her workouts. She explained that each day she would go to the gym, hop on the treadmill, increase the incline and do a brisk walk for 45 minutes. It was the same thing every single day. Eventually, this would drive anyone mad.

I took her to the gym the next day and showed her many different ways to change up her routine and keep things fresh and I could tell she had a new found excitement immediately. The point is, each day should be completely different than the one before. Change the location if you need to. Instead of the treadmill at the gym one day, find a local mountain or walking trail. Go from the pool, to a lake nearby for a swim.

I even found myself back in college stuck in the cyclical weight training routine. Each week looked very similar with chest day, legs day, back and bicep day, repeat. Ahhhhh! I cringe when I think of my old ways. I got so sick of it! Finally, I discovered what works for me. I literally go in the gym without a clue of what I’m going to do and I just get after it with high intensity bodyweight and cardio training. It’s non stop madness and fun with sprints, handstand pushups, box jumps, pull-ups, frog jumps, rowing, cycling and more. Every single day is completely different and I love it.

So before you do something drastic like quitting your sport all together, pay attention to your mindset and how you are training each day and see if you are experiencing some of these common issues. That dread can turn back in to love and excitement and that will put you back on the road to success.

If you are struggling in the gym and need some fresh ideas, don’t hesitate to email me at brad@american-gymnast.com.

Brad Thornton

Strength & Fitness Team Lead