Why Do You Train?

Training Makes Me Happy

I think it is pretty safe to say that if you didn’t enjoy training, you wouldn’t do it and if you did do it, you wouldn’t be competing.  When we look at the reasons people train, they are all pretty similar.  People train because they want to look better, feel better, improve their health or perform better.  No matter the reason, one thing reigns true – The benefit to you outweighs the cost. 

What you gain from training will outweigh the sweat, effort, time and possible injuries etc.  During the off-season, these costs are minimized, but during meet prep, they are greatly exaggerated.  If you compete and you have had some measure of success and longevity there is no question as to the benefits outweighing the cost, even during prep.

Training means many things to many people.  The examples above vary, but they all have one common denominator – training is a vessel for self-improvement.  We all use training to improve our bodies and our minds.  We train to create better versions of ourselves.  In some cases, this is a healthy practice, but in others it can be a very disordered mental state.  Training should bring a measure of happiness into your life, but it should not determine your happiness, nor should any one external activity or person for that matter, but I digress. 

As much as training benefits you on a personal level, you must keep it in perspective.  Perspective is a beautiful thing.  Here is a large dose of it: If you are a competitive lifter, training is a means to improve your total.  We train to lift heavier weights on the platform.  That is the ONLY goal of a competitive lifter.  I have never once heard anyone say: “Well, I totaled 300lbs less, but look how happy I am!” 

Training is a means to an end.  In the case of a highly competitive athlete, that end should always be increasing the total.  While other ends such as stress management, improved self-image etc. may occur secondary to this, the ultimate goal is to increase the total.  Now, to return back to the first statement of this article where I stated that you would not train unless you enjoyed it.  If you enjoy training, you’re going to want to do it a lot.  The more you train the better you look, feel etc.  The problem arises here because training more is not always conducive to increasing the total.  In fact in many cases, doing too much can actually hinder progress.  Things like not deloading, not cycling intensities, not tapering volume, and not having a true off-season all contribute to slowed progress.

Now, put yourself in a position where training was taken away from you.  Without training, there will be a deficit in the benefit/ cost relationship.  There will be no cost, but there will also be no benefit.  Since the benefit was higher than the cost, you’re now missing something.  Now, what if what you were missing was the source of a lot of the benefit in your life?  What if training was the way you coped with stress, dealt with negative feelings, escaped the world or determined your self worth?  If that were taken away from you there would be an enormous gap in your life.  How would you react?  Take a lighter version of this and say you’re prepping for a competition and are asked to only train 3 times per week. Would you go crazy and spiral into depression?  

This is where perspective becomes so incredibly important.  It has spoken and written about it ad nauseum, but there should be fulfillment in other areas of your life.  Training should not be the only source of self-actualization.  If it is, I guarantee you will not last long in this sport.  The purpose of this article is to cause you to question your practices as they pertain to training, but also to question the relationship you have with it and the role it plays in your life.  In order to be successful, you need to be committed to doing the things necessary to increase your total.  Sometimes that means training less.  You’ll need to be able to find something else to fill the void.  A healthy lifestyle, family, friends, significant other or other hobby or interest would all be great alternatives.

Life is a lot more than lifting... but lifting is A LOT like life.

Stay strong,

Paul Oneid MS MS CSCS

Founder and Head Coach, Master Athletic performance

Now, let’s get a little touchy feely

This entire article is actually the exact frame of questioning that I went through when I found out I was hurt and needed to take time off.  I love to train and training does make me very happy both emotionally, personally and physically.  When I was asked to take 6 weeks off, I spiraled and I felt completely lost.  This was the single most important factor in what I can almost guarantee will be a long and successful journey in powerlifting.  I learned that perspective is the key to everything.  The answer to the question “why?” needs to always be clear and the goal needs to always be clear.  
Once I realized that I had placed an unhealthy amount of my personal happiness into training, I was able to make a lot of changes.  My relationship with my significant other improved.  I spend more time with family.  I am more productive in my professional endeavors and in general I am much less stressed and far happier.  Do I still love training? Absolutely!  Every time I am in the gym I am 100% focused on my goals.  I do the work that is necessary and then I leave and continue on living my life.  During a meet prep, I still think about training a lot more than normal, but I make sure to not let that interfere with the other parts of my life that make me happy.  I want to be a world-class level lifter and I am committed to doing less in order to achieve more.  I seek happiness in all areas of my life, not just the 4 walls of a gym.