In my last article about how to be a successful weightlifter, I talked about how I think that having a strong will is probably the most important psychological trait to possess for success. If you look up synonyms of ”Will”, you will find the following : Intention, decisiveness, craving, purpose, self control and self discipline. Wouldn’t you agree that to be successful in weightlifting, you have to be driven by the desire to improve, make the decision/have the intention to work hard but in a smart way, have the self discipline to follow your plan, have the self control necessary to remove or modify anything that can disturb your performance (including some aspects of your social life)? I would like to offer my thoughts on improving motivation towards training.
The will to succeed : it’s importance
This is a new weightlifting era. Weightlifting has definitely gotten more accessible due to new technologies. If one really seek information or videos online, one can find about everything. New lifters are doing extremely well and getting a lot our attention, rightfully. We also tend to forget the doing of more senior lifters, some of them with incredible achievements and some of them with incredible smarts. Tommy Kono had both.
On the topic of motivation and goal setting, which is relevant for our purpose, Kono said : ”It will take great desire, determination, dedication, plus discipline of the mind; and the body must be adapting to these heavier loads. Sacrifices will be required as well as patience for the progress. It means quality effort and time must be spent to achieve the goal. To succeed, you must have faith in your ability to carry your training and training plan to success. Progress will come in increments so you must keep hammering away with your goal always in sight. Your focus on your goal should be so great that you even dream it in your sleep. Only when you come to the point of believing in your ability to accomplish it will this goal be met.”
The words of the 3 times Olympian (2 gold, 1 silver) and 6 times world champion, are pretty much drive the point home, but other well known figures have also shared stories where you see the psychological drive required to be a champion or achieve greatness. Alekseyev, when asked about the reasons for his winning, said : ”If I want something. I will definitely achieve it. No matter what I have to sacrifice … The more complex the situation, the more threatening my rivals, the more I spread my wings in defiance of everything. […] Excitement before competition is very dangerous. I, of course, have felt it. Sometimes I calm myself –everything happens as it must, and so what happens will happen. I must win, because I have a solid supply of strength…”.
How to enhance motivation towards training for higher results
1. Set competition goals and monthly goals
Most people need something to look forward to in order to stay motivated. When training for competitions (be it club competitions or international competitions), it’s good to think of a certain number you would like to hit on that day. Don’t wait for the week before the competition to set up your goal. Set your competition goal right at the beginning of the training cycle. Write it down in your training file so that you see that every time you train.
Where most people lose their motivation is the in between the now and the competition. They go through the daily grind, PRs are getting more rare (or you are saving them for the competition), progress is harder to judge, and the competition is just too far away. One thing that has worked for some people I coach is to write down monthly goals. These goals have to be realistic, feasible and they can be anything. Example : committing to not miss a training session in the month, adding a rep to a set, a PR on accessory work (+1-2kg to a press for instance). What it does is you now have a monthly challenge to keep you training and competing against yourself.
2. Set up a plan to reach your goals
Your coach should be doing it for you, but you should discuss the numbers needed to reach your goals so that a proper plan is put in place. This should put everything into perspective and you will know where you are at and where you need to go. The next thing is to look at the time frame and lay down the basic of your program. Many approaches can be used to creating the program. A popular approach is to divide the number of weeks you have left before the competition into phases. For example and very basically, if you have 16 weeks, then you know you can get your strength numbers up within 2 months (still working on your snatch and clean and jerk) and focus the next 2 months on getting the classic lifts up while reducing the strength work. This gives a sense of control and positioning (you know where you are headed to) and many derive motivation from doing this, rather than swinging training according to how they feel.
3. Identify your obstacles and destroy them
What is it exactly that makes you lose motivation? Is it an old injury that has been flaring up again? Is it school that drains you mentally? Is it your lack of progress? Once you can identify what makes you lose motivation precisely and now that you are aware of it, it is your responsibility to fix the situation. If it’s the old injury, it’s your duty to fix it. If you are mentally drained from school/work, you can change the programming to make it shorter but still work on what needs to be worked. If it’s your lack of progress, its your duty to talk with your coach and ask ”why?”.
4. Take a week off.
Training heavy for long period of times can make you mentally drained or quite tired. Doing the same thing over and over is fun to perfect a skill, but after a while the lack of novelty in your training and the intense routine in your life can take its toll on you. I have said many times over here that in many countries where they have multiple training camps, lifters would change camps every month or so OR they would train for three weeks, go back home for a week and come back. Don’t take more time off than you need, but do take some time off to bring back the desire in you.
Whatever it is you are craving or are dying to get, save it for when you reach your goal which will keeps you focused on your goal and make your accomplishments much more satisfying. Anything goes! Just do it and see what it does for you.
6. Don’t film your lifts, unless these lifts are PRs or you are doing it for your coach
We are always way too critical when watching ourselves lift. People have a tendency to film themselves too much, and then spending hours looking those videos trying to pick every mistakes possible. Not only the cause of these mistakes tend to be wrongly identified by athletes (not because they don’t have the ability to spot mistakes, but because they are biased by their own feeling of how the lift went and what they think they should be working on…when it may not be what’s needed or what’s happening), but you will also suffer of paralysis by analysis. In my experience, people will also tend to have lower motivation after doing this for too long because of the illusion of not progressing.
It’s just like when you lose weight and look at you in the mirror everyday. Doing so makes you think that you have not lost weight because you just see too much of yourself too often. Then, you meet somebody who you have not seen in a month or more and what’s the first thing they say? ”Wow, you have lost so much weight…you look terrific!”. Same principle.
7. See the bigger picture and list 3 things that were great/positive after every training session
It is easy to dwell on a missed lift or on something that did not work according to plan. Rather than focusing on negative things that happened during your session, focus on what was great and on what went well. If you are going to practice this sport for a long time, you have to see the bigger picture. List 3 things that you liked of your training after every training session. Aim to repeat those things. The negative will eventually be weeded out.
I used pictures of Wonderlifter. Here is Wonderlifter’s facebook.