You’ve Lost that Lifting Feeling
By Frank Gigante
You have hit the gym hard over and over again, are eating well, but have lost that drive to go. It all seems mundane and routine. You can’t put your finger on it. Things have gone well, but for some reason it all has become more of a chore than an energized passion. Why? The first thing many people point to is lack of motivation. “I have no motivation to go to the gym”, “to eat healthy”, etc. That’s not it at all. This leads to self-punishment and negative self-talk, aka, beating ourselves up mentally. “You’re lazy.” “You don’t work hard enough.” “You just don’t want it bad enough.” The conversations we have within ourselves are often the harshest and most cutting conversations. These are things we would never say to another person, but yet we tear ourselves down and apart without realizing it.
If it is not lack of motivation and self-discipline, what is going on? There are several possibilities, and even better there are ways to overcome this phase and get that fire and energy back.
Sleep - As hard as you may work in the gym, your body will only recover, grow stronger, and adapt to the greater stress you place upon it, through rest and recovery. Quality sleep is critical. Much like filling your car with only a few bucks worth of gas each day, it will go for a while, but is not able to go the full distance it could if the tank were full. Getting by on less than optimal sleep, affects not only your training, but your energy levels, thought process, and productivity levels in all areas.
Nutrition – Without the proper fuel, you cannot achieve your training goals. If you are not taking in enough nutrients, your body cannot build muscle, fuel your metabolism, and function in all areas at optimal levels. Likewise, if you are overloading it with junk, that will only serve to slow your results as well.
Training too long –Maybe you are eating and sleeping well, but your training still seems to be sluggish. It could just be time for a change. In my own training, I routinely take a week or so off from lifting every 4-8 weeks. There comes a point, both mentally and physically, where it seems I have accomplished what I wanted with a particular weight training program, and I am ready to be done with it. I will end the workout cycle and take a week or so off from lifting. For me, I will still keep up with my nutrition and cardio workouts, even adding in a session at times, and use the time as an active rest period to recharge both physically and mentally. When I do go back to the gym, I will have written an entirely new workout plan with different exercises, sets and rep ranges, muscle group pairings, and techniques. I have found it keeps me progressing and I believe injury free for the most part over the years.
Stress – Sometimes life gets the best of us. Things outside of the gym affect us as we deal with a variety of stress in our lives; at work, home, family, school, financial, and the list could go on and on. Stress affects everyone differently, but it does take its toll. It is a good idea to look at what is causing the stress, and find ways to best manage its impact in our life, while we work through the stressful situation itself. Maybe a massage or a counseling session or a weekend away would be helpful. It may not resolve the stressful situation itself, but it will allow for better management of its impact on your physical, mental, and emotional health as you continue to deal with it.
Take time off – Contrary to the many social media memes you may see floating around, you will not “lose your gainz” because you didn’t work out for a few days. Your body can only adapt and recover when you rest. Taking a few days off, even as much as a week or two, will not suddenly send your body into some crazy transformation that lands you back at your starting point before you ever started training. Listen to your body. Eat well, keep up with some activity to stay active – cardio sessions, try some yoga, stretch and foam roll, and relax. In short order you will feel better, energized, and that familiar itch and drive will burn again. You will know it is time to get back in the gym and lift weights.
Training Program - When you are ready to go back to your weight training program, do not pick up where you left off and go through the same workout program you left. Your body will quickly fall into the same groove and it will become a mundane and bored routine. Change it up. Write or find a new workout program. Create this training regimen to use different exercises, different sets and rep schemes, add in different intensity techniques, like supersets, drop sets, compound sets, and even pair muscle groups differently in this routine. If you always work chest and triceps together, try chest and biceps, or give arms their own day. Do something different to keep it fresh and new for yourself mentally. The last thing you want is your workout to become as automatic as brushing your teeth. Your mind and body can do that on autopilot to a point where it no longer takes much effort or concentration to accomplish. If you want to keep progressing in your workouts, you do not want your body working on autopilot.
Nutrition - When it comes to nutrition, variety is key as well. If you are meticulous with your meals and tracking macronutrients, you know the value of a nutritious eating plan. You probably have a set number of meals that you can rely on to meet your needs and see the results you want. However, there are numerous foods and meal ideas out there, that are just as healthy and will meet your nutrition needs. Find a few new meal ideas or recipes and make them work in your favor. There is no reason being healthy has to mean bland and boring meals. Look for foods you haven’t been eating in a while and find ways to incorporate them. Having new and tasty meals to look forward to each day will definitely go a long way mentally in keeping you on track towards your goals.
Well Being - Aside from the training and nutrition aspects, overall health and well-being are important. Managing stress, illness, lack of sleep, and emotional wellness are equally important in keeping your mind and body running at optimal levels. Take the time to invest in yourself. Find ways to manage stress, create a better nighttime routine to improve sleep quality, enjoy some relaxation time and activities and nurture yourself a bit more. While these aspects are a bit more intangible than having a specific number of sets and reps in the gym or a concrete nutrition plan, they are worth the investment and taking better care of yourself in these areas will pay huge dividends in the long run.
Finally, if all of these ideas still don’t seem to rejuvenate your passion and spirit, try something different. Doing cardio on fitness equipment can be a chore. Take advantage of great weather and get outdoors. For me, I have enjoyed being a beginner in many ways both in the gym and in cardio. With the summer months I have taken my cardio training outdoors to run stairs, do hill sprints, push a prowler sled, and anything else I can try that will still accomplish my cardio goals, but is completely new and different for me. Find new activities. Hiking, biking, rock climbing, rollerblading, swimming, rowing, etc. are all great ideas. Look for clubs or groups in your area and immerse yourself in something new. Fitness is not only found in the weight room. Find ways to challenge yourself away from the gym. It will be worth it and it will help that fire to burn strong again.
Feel free to catch up with me online on Facebook at www.facebook.com/frankgigantenaturalpro. If you want to continue this discussion, I encourage you to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want even more hands on help or detailed plans check out my online coaching site www.naturalprofitnesscoaching.com and let’s work closely together to keep you on track and moving forward throughout this year.