Training Without Motivation

by Ryan Stinn

I think it’s fair to say that when we start training, specifically when we start training for a sport like powerlifting, weightlifting or strongman/strongwoman where we have set goals of lifts and movements we want to improve, motivation is pretty easy. It’s easy to get stronger and technically better when we are so new, heck just driving past the gym when you first start you will get stronger. When you can lift more almost every week if not everyday you can’t wait to go train again and get even stronger.

Let a few years or a few decades pass and suddenly progress is measured more in months and years and less in days and weeks. Given that I am writing this in October 2020 in the time when I would usually be seriously ramping up my own training for IPF Open Worlds but when COVID-19 responses have left competition possibilities nearly non-existent, motivation is something I’m thinking a lot about lately.

More often than not these days I’m finding myself unmotivated to go and train, there is always something else I’d rather be doing. That said I haven’t missed a workout. I think it’s probably fair to say that all lifters will go through phases like this when their interest is drawn elsewhere. For some this means leaving the sport for a while to focus on that new thing. Oftentimes the draw of the weights will bring them back, as a sport you are never truly done with lifting, there is always going to be more weight to put on the bar.

I have also been thinking more about whether it’s better to take the time away completely, refresh yourself, and come back with a more burning desire to train but take the hit to your strength levels. Or to continue to train through the dull times and at the very least maintain the strength you have if you aren’t pushing hard enough to make gains. Lifters I’ve spoken to have often sided with the ‘continue training’ model and clearly that’s where my own mindset is.

One tactic I’ve used to help keep me at least somewhat motivated is by focusing on a secondary movement or technique to improve. A movement you’ve never focused on, say, incline bench, is going to be far more open to improvement than your standard competition movements. That means you’ll make quicker progress and can help stimulate that motivation. Or maybe you normally pull conventional and want to work on sumo technique, or you want to widen your stance out in the squat. Again that focus on a different movement can help to keep you coming back.

However what truly keeps me coming in even when I really don’t want to is community. Even when I don’t need help or need to help someone else that feeling of community is a big part of lifting for me. 

So there’s my three tactics to train through low motivation periods:

  1. Focus on a new lift
  2. Focus on a new technique or technique change
  3. Find the right community that will keep you coming back

I hope this was helpful for you or at least gave you some idea that you aren't alone when you feel like you are lacking motivation. All the best with your training!