Weightlifting Frustrations

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I’m going to share with you some of my weightlifting frustrations that I encounter on a day to day basis. This includes frustrations that I encountered as an athlete, and frustrations that I encounter as a coach. I’m sure you could add to this list, but I want to make it clear that I don’t want this to be a complaining blog – I want to discuss how to deal with those frustrations…

Weightlifting is an “unmasterable” sport

First of all, we are trying to ‘master’ an ‘unmasterable’ sport. It is a sport that requires precision through a compound movement with excessive weight in a split second. It requires you to be moving in a very particular way to be most effective while maintaining safety. While that should be fairly straightforward (in theory), for anyone who has trained in this sport, it is not!

We want to move well, but there are things that affect how we move on a day to day basis. It might be something as simple as feeling fatigued, an injury, it might be a little niggle. It may be that you did a heavy session the day before and your body hasn’t fully recovered. It might be that in a certain position you get aches and pains. It might be that you had a tough day in the office and something is playing on your mind which effects your concentration. 

All of those things, as well as many others, are contributing factors. While we try to master an unmasterable sport, I think it’s important that we recognise that we have to be realistic about the situation as well. Instead of trying to ‘master’ an area of weightlifting, instead aim to be as competent as you possibly can be. Set SMARTER goals. 

What might feel really easy one day in training might feel like an absolute nightmare the next day. We’ve all been there right?! We go to the gym one day and suddenly the weights are flying, everything is clicking, and we lift brilliantly, but then the next day it just doesn’t click at all. 

This is normal, and it is completely okay. It is a frustration I know, but it is important to understand that it is not a problem. Try to appreciate the good days, but also recognise when you’re having a challenging one. We need those challenging days to really appreciate the good ones.

What kind of person are YOU?

How many of you have wanted to quit?

I can honestly put up my hand and say that there were times where I questioned what I was doing, why I was doing it, and whether I could keep going. I think that those who do quit, maybe the goal or the desire to achieve isn’t strong enough. Some people quit because they’re lazy. Some people quit because quitting when the going gets tough is just in their blood. Some people quit because they are fortunately forced to – through injury for example. 

Who are you? Are you the type of person who just walks away when the going gets tough? Or are you the type of person who looks for a solution for any problem? 

I stuck around for this sport for the best part of three decades, and now I’m still going as a coach – despite all of my frustrations. And I think that is a testament or credit to the strength of the goals that I set throughout my career. 

For me, I always wanted to compete at the highest levels. Working through the Commonwealth Games and Olympics cycles meant that I always had something big to aim for. 

Now don’t get me wrong, when I started out, the goals that I had weren’t as big as that! They were to achieve a new personal best, and to qualify for a particular competition, for example. 

Regardless of what stage you are at in your competition, or lifting career. If you have a goal and that goal is worth achieving, then quitting won’t be an option. 

When the going gets tough, how do you deal with it? 

How to deal with the frustration of having an injury

One of the big frustrations that I had to deal with throughout my career was to deal with injuries. 

If you have never been injured, I would question whether you have ever pushed yourself. Pushing yourself until you break is obviously not great and we don’t want you to be in that position. But if you’ve never pushed yourself, how do you know how far you can go before you break?

When I was an athlete, I wanted to achieve that fine balance; not too far, to the point where I would sustain an injury or niggle, but to push myself far enough so that I was stretched significantly, in order to achieve more.

Think about how you deal with the frustrations of injury. That feeling of, “I can’t do this”, or, “I can’t train.” When some people get injured, they  just don’t train at all and have some time off. When they come back in a week, in a month, or three months, they then have to go through the cycle of getting back to some kind of fitness and level of condition they were before injury.

For me, as an athlete, I used to use injuries as a blessing in disguise to go away and work on everything else. Frustrations of the injury can open up a lot of new ways to think about training, and ultimately improve your overall lifting, like it did for me.  I can honestly say that I came back fitter, stronger than before with every injury I sustained.  I used this time to train in a positive way to help stay focussed and positive.  It was more a question of what I could do rather than what I couldn’t.

Frustrations of training in a gym

Training in a gym that is busy, where you can’t find the equipment you need, and you can’t get the platform that you want, can all be very frustrating. I think we have all experienced it when we have trained in different facilities and things are not quite right.

Maybe the equipment is poor quality, maybe you don’t like the music being played. Sometimes the lighting in gyms isn’t what you are used to. Perhaps you don’t like the general gym atmosphere. Maybe another gym-goer, who has no gym-etiquette, walks right in-front of you when you go for a heavy lift. There are frustrations of having to wait for a set of squat stands or wait for the bar you want. 

All of these things can be frustrating, or even infuriating as a lifter. But it’s how you deal with the frustrations in the given situation that determines how good or how bad your session is going to be. 

When you go into a gym to train, try to remember that you’re there to ‘do the job’, and work through your session as well as you possibly can. The atmosphere, facility, music etc, may not always be quite as you want them, or how you have them in your gym, but try to focus on your session and not all of the other external factors.

Try to look at this as a positive situation and an opportunity to be stronger psychologically. Should any of these frustrations present at competition then you will be in a better place to deal with them.

Dealing with frustrations of sporting politics

One more thing that has been around throughout my entire career, are the frustrations of ‘sporting politics’. 

There are even politics within gyms. For example, between gym owners, through the ranks of the staff, down to the athlete and the people who train in the gym. Maybe one coach within the gym you train at, doesn’t agree with the lifting programme that you follow, or thinks you should be lifting in a different way. This can make you feel uncomfortable and ultimately limit what you achieve in each session when they’re about.

For me, I have felt the frustrations of going through a governing body, which, at times, has been awfully run by people who really couldn’t care less about weightlifters, but instead have their own agendas and their own ‘power-trips’.

That has been probably one of my biggest frustrations, especially as a female in a male-dominiated sport. I have tried to break down those barriers by standing up and saying, “hang on, we deserve to be treated better than this!!”

I still have frustrations with how things are run from higher up, and that is one of the reasons why I’ve stepped away. It’s not great to be moaning and complaining all of the time about issues that are going on. These frustrations are out of my control. So rather than get frustrated about it, I’ve learned to say to myself, “okay, I’m going to remove myself from those situations and I’m going to do my own thing.”

That way, I can carry on day to day, enjoy what I’m doing, and be the best that I can be at coaching and supporting those with whom I work.

Turn the negatives into something good

Think about the frustrations that you have with this sport.

Is your frustration trying to master the unmasterable? Is it an injury? Is it training in an environment that you don’t like? Or with people you don’t like? What are your frustrations? 

List them all on a piece of paper, or have a quiet reflection on why these are frustrating to you. Then, take each frustration and try to turn them into something positive, so you can stay in full control and continue to move forwards with the sport you love.