As we slowly creep towards the end of term, and have to deal with the added stresses of those nasty deadlines (not to mention rapidly depleting bank balances), it’s easy to let the volume and quality of our training slip up. At times it can feel as if any free time is being taken up by work – and even when we do have the time to train, the inclination can be hard to come by as stress begins to drain our energy and leaves us prone to bad habits. With this in mind, here are just a few tips to break the cycle of lethargy and keep lifting to your heart’s content!
Have a plan
It’s extremely hard to maintain your motivation if you don’t have anything like a clear plan for the week. Picture the scene: it gets to 3pm on a Friday, you’re bored and wondering, ‘do I go to the gym?’ Now, let’s be honest, in this scenario the chances are you either won’t bother at all, or you’ll drag yourself all the way up forum hill only to slog through a lousy, half-hearted session. If, however, you pencil in a chest session at 8am, for instance, you are far more likely to get yourself in the gym in the first place, and then go on to enjoy a really productive session.
One of the most common excuses for not going to the gym is a lack of time, yet more often than not this simply comes down to a lack of forward thinking. Take a minute to actively schedule your gym time around other commitments, and it will no longer feel like it’s getting in the way. It also helps to choose a time of day that suits you personally and, where possible, try to stick to this. Personally, I like to train either first thing in the morning or late at night if I can, when the gym is quiet and I can crack on with out having to worry about anything else that might be going on throughout the day.
I’m not suggesting any workout plan you devise need necessarily be followed to the minute, however just by having something in place you’re far more likely to stay focused on your training and committed to what you want to achieve.
Set specific targets
Whatever you want to get out of your training, it’s important to set specific short and long term targets. For instance, a short term target might be improving your maximum bench press by 5kg before the end of the semester, and a long term goal could be to gain 10kg of muscle mass over the course of the year. It’s really up to you what these goals are, but just make sure you find a balance between challenging your body and being realistic about what you can achieve. Set the bar too high and you’ll either end up injured or frustrated; set it too low, and you’re unlikely to see any tangible progress.
Track your progress
By the same token, you need to have a good idea how you’re getting along if you want to stay committed to achieving these targets. Whether this is a matter of weighing yourself, taking progress pics or keeping regular notes of weights and reps achieved on certain exercises, this can make a huge difference to your training. If you’re not familiar with it, try out the Gym Hero app; this little gem allows you to easily log your workouts and monitor progress from session to session.
As we all know, there’s nothing like a good tune to get you firing in the gym. A good playlist really can be the difference between a good session and a great one, giving you the added boost needed to squeeze out those extra few reps and sets. It doesn’t matter what the music is (in fact, the music I listen to in the gym doesn’t always necessarily reflect my general preferences), just find something that gets you in the right frame of mind to train at your best.
Personally, I find that my music choices vary from week to week depending on my overall mood – sometimes it might take some heavy EDM tracks to lift my energy levels, while at other times I’m happy to listen to something more chilled so I can relax and focus on my technique. Hell, sometimes I’ll even take a gamble on the (often questionable) music playing over the gym speakers.
Whatever works for you, run with it, however, tacky it might be. However, I would recommend freshening up your selections now and then to ensure you don’t get bored.
Arguably even more important than varying your music choices, keeping variety in your training routines will prevent them becoming stale and lethargic. Trying out a new exercise or variation of an exercise can be really enjoyable, and if you’re enjoying what you’re doing it generally follows that you will put more into it. Adapting your training focus now and then will also force your muscles to adapt to new stimuli, benefitting your overall results.
Loving your squats? Why not throw in some front squats? More of a bench junkie? Try using the football bar for a slightly different training focus.
This really does come down to preference, as you might feel more comfortable or more focused training on your own. However, if you do feel your energy levels sagging, training with one or two friends may be worth taking into consideration. Not only will a bit of chat in between sets help create a positive atmosphere (provided said chat is up to standard), the inevitable competition factor should help to bring the best out of you.