How To Improve Your Focus in the Gym, A Nowhere-Near-Exhaustive Guide

This video contains a pretty good, typical example of what I listen to from other lifters in my gym when I train. If you frequent weightlifting forums–T-Nation, bodybuilding.com, womenslifting.com, etc.–you may have seen a question posed at least semi-regularly that asks other forum-goers how they stay motivated, focused, and concentrating in the gym and in competition.

The answer to this is quite simple (actually, it’s not. At all. We’re just saying it is for this post and its topic). Just like you train your body to perform lifts with correct form and ever-increasing capacity for weight loads, you can also train your mind to block out such nuisances as guys trumpeting how macho they are at a frequency, both in terms of sound volume and in number of times of occurrence, that blows away what might be considered reasonable levels. That’s right–with a little practice, you can withstand barrages of bro behavior and its potential to be a distraction from your training. How do you get this practice? You lift in my gym, or a gym like my gym, which is basically most larger university gyms.

Over Thanksgiving, I trained in three other gyms than my usual university gym. These gyms were all less populated, two of them much less so, than I’m normally used to at this point. It was a welcome change in environment to experience less of the activity described above. That said, the activity described above and one’s ability to ignore it even when one is going out for a damned hard set can be useful in the long run. The more you can condition yourself–and again, I’m referring to mental conditioning here–to deal with less than ideal conditions in a lifting space, the better prepared you are to navigate some element in a meet environment that might really throw other lifters when competing. Meets are noisy, crowded, loaded with stimuli. They are not sheltered spaces, and if you need that to concentrate in order to pull off big PRs, you might want to think about actively introducing yourself to obtrusive/annoying/difficult training situations in order to prepare for the unknown in a meet. Because there will be unknowns. Maybe it will be babies crying, maybe it will be people doing weird things on warm-up benches next to your warm-up bench, who knows. What I’ve learned from having to put up with a gym literally filled with lifters who at best usually look like they’re vaguely invested in their training and at worst are seriously rude terrors is that I cannot let what people are doing in there distract me. Ever. It’s hard. We laugh about things we have to hear in there all the time. I might even be doing so in the above video. But ultimately, it’s actually something I’m thankful for. Dealing with emotions when lifting is huge, and perhaps an underrated aspect of lifting that deserves more consideration in training articles. Most people who know me tolerably well would probably say, if pressed, that I tend towards being more reactionary than the average individual. That, of course, is understatement. But I have to actively put that trait aside every time I lift. The more I can succeed at this, the better my training will be. I’m still learning this lesson, and I’ll probably keep getting entertaining things in lifting videos to laugh at as I do.

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