This week’s training has been accompanied by some external stressors, so as well as summarising my training I wanted to talk about how to remain focused on weight lifting when you’re stressed.
Mind over matter
This week has had its ups and downs – more so than usual – which has certainly affected my mental state and could easily affect my performance when training if I’m not careful.
We had an invoice from the vets which we weren’t expecting and it seems that they have not submitted a lot of our insurance claims, so there’s ongoing discussions about who is liable for what amounts. Arrghh!
Plus, more importantly, Charlie needs to have further investigations relating to ‘The Big C’, so that’s obviously another worry as anyone with a pet would understand. I’ll give a run-down of my highlights from the week and then talking about how to remain focused on your lifting when you’re stressed,
Monday: I got a front squat 3RM PR at 107.5lbs. My back was rounding a bit which made some of the reps harder than they should have been. Just need to keep my form in check!
Tuesday: My mood wasn’t great although I think my decline went okay. However, going into the OHP-Push I felt like throwing the barbell across the room! Nonetheless I got a 3RM PR at 66lbs.
Thursday: Some of the comp stance reps felt heavier than others, but I need to remember to keep my chest up otherwise I end up leaning forward, making it harder on the way back up. Other than that they felt pretty good.
Friday: I tested some singles on flat bench. It was here that I noticed how the touch point of the bar really affects whether or not the bar goes back up smoothly. If I try and keep the touch point just below my chest this makes it easier; any lower and I lose strength on the way back up. My touch point is not consistent yet, but I’ll get there.
I also tried my Slingshot for the first time. This can help people who have injuries but still want to train their bench. It also enables people to bench more weight, with the aim that they can eventually bench heavier weights without use of the Slingshot.
It felt very weird! My coach wanted me to start at 85 and I got one rep but it felt too unstable, so I dropped to 75 and managed to get some rather dubious-looking reps out of it!
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How to remain focused on weight lifting when you’re stressed
So, what can you do when stuff is going on outside the training room so that it doesn’t impact upon you inside the training room?
Anger can sometimes be a helpful emotion to channel into your lifting/exercising, but it can also get in the way. You may go into a lift too aggressively and instead of it helping to shift the weight it can actually affect your ability to lift safely.
My coach says that what you’re feeling doesn’t matter in the context of lifting weights; the aim is to execute the lift. That said, it can be hard to focus on what’s needed when you might be feeling any number of emotions.
Everyone handles stress differently. For me personally, I like to try and get out in nature and go walking once a week with Alan and Cookie. It helps clear my head and it’s a time where I can reflect on things which might be happening in my life. Other people might find that things like listening to music, meditating, or doing the gardening help them. Sometimes it’s about experimenting to find out what works for you.
In terms of when I’m training, one thing I tried to do this week was visualise myself breathing in the feelings and pushing them down into my stomach when I brace. I see it as a way of ‘removing’ my thoughts from my mind by pushing them into my stomach.
If I’m feeling emotional in-between lifts then that’s okay; I’ll allow myself to feel those emotions but not get overwhelmed by them. However, when I’m about to lift I don’t want anything distracting me; it’s time to work.
So, my strategy is:
- Focus my mind by setting up as I would normally
- Continue to focus my mind again by going over my cues
- Make sure the bar has settled (if squatting or benching)
This is just my strategy though, so it may or may not work for you. Perhaps try it and see. Or, you could try out different ways of focusing your mind during times of stress to see what works best for you.
Stress is an inevitable part of life which can impact upon the mind and affect your training. The trick (in my view at least) is to be able to separate yourself from those thoughts and feelings for the time in which you are executing the lift (including the set up).
This skill will be invaluable at a meet when you’re perhaps feeling nervous, anxious, excited, or a combination of all three!
Have you already got a strategy to deal with stress whilst lifting? Comment below and let me know what works for you!