How can I regain my motivation for weightlifting, when it feels like I am going in circles?
posted by lollusc to sports, hobbies, & recreation (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I have been lifting heavy weights since 2004. I have used a variety of programs over the years - usually for six months to a year at a time, then I switch programs. I always include the main compound lifts, and hardly use machines. Recently I've been including some kettlebells.
In the first three or four years, I made steady strength gains, and I found that my main motivation for going to the gym was to see if I could beat a previous max. That happened often enough (every couple of weeks) to stay motivational. In the next few years, it happened less often, and some lifts (pull-ups/downs) totally stalled, but still occasionally I would beat a personal record, and knowing that might happen kept me happy.
Now it has been literally several years since I bet a record. I think my maxes might be near the top of what I can genetically do (as a not-naturally athletic female) without a super intense program and/or eating weirdly, which I am not interested in. (I already eat pretty "clean" and make sure I get lots of protein and take a multivitamin, but I'm not interested in egg-white omelettes, avoiding alcohol, protein powders, or cycling between gaining and cutting).
What tends to happen is that I gradually get close to these maxes (squatting 100kg, benching 47.5kg, deadlifting 100kg, 10 pull-ups - for sets of 8-10: my one-rep maxes are a bit higher), and then I get sick, or go on fieldwork for several months, or life just happens and I don't get to the gym for 6-8 weeks. When I come back, I start back below what I was at before, gradually build back up over a couple of months, and then just when I am approaching those maxes again, bam! another overseas trip/injury/illness). I don't think I'm getting ill or injured more often than usual (maybe once a year - and not injuries from lifting, usually). Fieldwork happens once or twice a year and keeps me away for a couple of months. It is unrealistic to expect myself to keep up regular body-weight exercise in the field. I have tried and failed and accepted that won't happen for a number of reasons.
I'm cool with not increasing my strength/muscle any further in terms of being happy with my body. I don't want to lose it, though, so need to keep lifting. But without the motivation of seeing improvement, it is hard to make myself go to the gym regularly. I have the option of going with a buddy, or on my own. I have tried motivating myself through allowing myself to listen to audiobooks/great music only at the gym, by making the gym a habit that just happens on certain days of the week so I don't even think about not going, by reading about the benefits of doing weight-bearing exercise, by thinking about how much money I am spending on my membership, and by treating myself to small rewards for going. But ultimately I want something about the workout itself to be rewarding, and it's just... not.
Right now I'm just back from fieldwork, my squats are back at 75-80kg, bench back at 40-42.5, deadlift at 70-75, and I'm managing 3 pull-ups (these tend to fluctuate more with my body weight than with my strength.) I am dreading my next few workouts because even though I'll probably increase those lifts each time I do them, the increases are still just taking me through a cycle I've been through so many times before. I feel like Sisyphus.
For a while I found some motivation in trying totally different programs that either included exercises I hadn't done before (clean and jerk!) so I didn't have past maxes to compare myself to, or that had other unusual features (supersets, negatives, etc). But I feel like I'm running out of new things to try, now.
Does anyone have ideas for how I can find motivation in the lifting I am already doing? If you have suggestions for breaking through this recurring plateau, that's cool too, but I feel quite pessimistic about that, so I still need ways to motivate myself in the meanwhile.
(In case it's relevant, I also do rock-climbing - but have similar issues with what breaks do to my abilities in this, and I ski now and then in winter. I cycle for an hour every day. I hate running and I can't really swim. I might consider other sports, but probably not :) )