the joy of strength training


November 10th, 2008 at 10:37 pm

The Loneliness of the Lifter

Psychology plays a big part in any sport but strength training is an interesting example in that it is pursued by many on their own, often in their own basement or garage gym.

For those of us who train in solitary, it can be a lonely business. It is just you, the weight and a whole world of pain and effort!

lonely lifter

It is not even necessary to train in your own gym in order to feel like a lone wolf. How many of us who are seriously into our training feel ‘alone’ in the local gym, surrounded by people who are only there to train the t-shirt muscles or go through the motions, and have no idea what that crazy person in the corner is trying to achieve by grunting in the squat cage under an enormous weight?

Even so, a lot of people prefer to train largely on their own. For some, it is one of the few times in the day when they get to be on their own and to do something that is entirely for their own benefit.

But there are also moments when it is so damn difficult! When you need some good advice or a bit of encouragement or someone yelling ‘Come on!!’ Having a knowledgeable friend or group of people around you can make such a difference to your progress. As well as the social aspect, friends can pick up on bad habits that have crept into your technique or show you something you haven’t done before. Then there’s the natural competition that rears its head whenever a bunch of people train together. It can really spur you on to great heights!

The internet has been both a boon and a bane in this area. On the positive side, suddenly there is a whole community of lifters to get involved with, share training knowledge, videos etc without leaving your own home. There’s a smorgasboard of advice and knowledge to pick from.

However, there are also the keyboard warriors, the charlatans, the idiots. People who are quick to criticize but very slow to show you what they can do. People who read all the books and websites but haven’t actually got around to training themselves! Sometimes I feel about the internet much as I feel about the local shopping centre on a Saturday afternoon: I am torn between trying to find what I came for in the first place with the desire just to get the hell out of there!!

Being your own coach can also be tough. It is said that there are at least as many training programmes as there are trainees: you have to do your research, self diagnose your own problems and work out what to change when progress grinds to a halt.

So what would I recommend when it all gets a bit too much?

Keep it simple – lifting weights is pretty simple. Pick up something heavy. Try not to hurt yourself. That’s it.

Don’t rely entirely on the internet for fellowship and advice. There’s no substitute for someone actually being there when you are lifting. Call the local federations and get a list of member gyms in your area and then go and train with them. They may be too far away to train with regularly, but a visit every once in a while could be all you need.

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  • 1

    How strange, I was thinking about how lonely I felt in the gym today! I’ve done a workout with my boyfriend before, which was great because I had someone to encourage me and critique my form – someone who understood my goals and had a similar mentality. Sadly it was just a one-off as we are in gyms on opposite sides of London!

    I agree with you about the information out there. So many programmes, e-books, diets etc. One of the reasons I like this blog so much is that the information presented is written dispassionately and is easy to digest (I’m a medic but I find a lot of the science behind many sites so difficult to read as there’s so much of it!).

    Rooroo on November 11th, 2008
  • 2

    When I first started out, I was quite overwhelmed with all the information and not sure whom to believe among the various competing claims. Rather than put my faith in any one system (which is a perfectly logical way to solve the problem), I decided to work things out for myself. Takes longer and is more work but I prefer it. Can’t follow orders, me! I’d be useless in the army…

    gubernatrix on November 12th, 2008
  • 3

    Of course you could be an officer…a manager…

    Demetre on November 16th, 2008
  • 4

    Ah, simplicity – so often ignored is the sentiment of freedom from complexity. I recently dropped out of the gym scene in favour of the garage and playground – peppered with infrequent visits to local iron dens. Perhaps simplicity is personal and ultimately, à la Walt Whitman, the glory of physicality, of expression.

    ultrafknbd on November 24th, 2008
  • 5

    I just found this stashed away in Google reader. Now filing it in my inspiration tag on

    Great article. I’m definitely one of those basement lone-lifters. I also keep very detailed accounts of my workouts in a journal and I find that setting a specific rest interval of 2-5 mins before starting motivates me to workout faster or at least on schedule and not waste too much time resting.

    Ben on September 6th, 2009
  • 6

    Glad you like it, Ben!

    gubernatrix on September 7th, 2009
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