T Nation

Balancing Gym with Life

Just wondering what protocols/guidelines do my fellow t-nationers follow in regards to life/gym balance.

I train 3 times a week at the gym and I am usually flexible with which days I go although usually have my weekly timetable planned in advance, but there are sometimes I don’t feel like going to the gym, and I am then left trying to reason with myself, if I should just wait for the next day which then means re-arranging my other plans etc.

How do you decide to go or stay home on the couch when you “kind of just can’t be bothered”?


This sounds more like a motivation issue and less of a schedule/balance issue…


Suck it up and do the work. That’s not balancing trailing with life, that’s being lazy. If you’re sick, rest. If you’re hurt, rest. If your family needs you, reschedule your training. Otherwise do the work.


It kind of sounds like that to me too.

It might be either psychological and/or physical burnout.

Maybe try chasing a goal that you’ve had for a long, but have always set aside for some reason or another. Like maybe learn how to power clean and set a goal of hitting 1.5x bodyweight if you haven’t done this yet. Or learning some other movement and getting decent at it.

Or say you’ve always focused on athletic qualities, try doing bodybuilding type stuff for a while.

after a hard day at work its the last thing most of us would want to do is go to the gym and lift heavy shit. I normally go home… have a strong coffee and listen to some heavy… loud metal and get myself on the bus to the gym. once i start exercising the “cant be fucked” feeling goes away.


It sounds to me like you need to make training a habit rather than a conscious decision/struggle. I’m willing to bet you don’t chicken out of brushing your teeth or showering regularly and that’s because you’ve made them a habit, do the same with your training.

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It actually depends what you want out of this. If you’re some guy who dies not want to compete onstage or a powerlifting meet, dies it matter you rearrange your schedule here and there or have other stuff to do? In the grand scheme of life it doesn’t! Even if one competes, provided he’s not a recluse or bum, there is stuff in life that can throw his training and diet off too, no matter how well he has planned.

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On priorities;
If something more important comes up then it get rescheduled. It’s just arse hat stupid to lift weights ahead of something more important. How important it is an individual decision and ever changing (I like Dan John’s green/amber/green idea - which will help with motivation) - in before some 24 year old tells me it should be top of the tree always.

On motivation;
Motivation is fleeting but habits habits need to be nurtured. If you schedule 5 one hour sessions per week and you do 1 thirty minute session every wwek for 6 weeks, then your expectation of yourself and reality are askew. In that case 2 sessions is better and when you have that down for a month, adding another (as with nutrition, folks have difficulty understanding they need to take smaller steps to get to their goal)

I dont listen to music or do preworkouts, etc so I have those up my sleeve if I really need something. I can also always talk myself into just doing a single working set and often that leads to a good full session once Im going.

LOL at just do it… that’s entirely the issue he’s asking help for.


I just go first thing in the morning because it’s the only time you can “count” on. In this case, the key for me is just to get out of bed and get in the car. At that point you’re on your way and the decision is made (I mean it’s either lift or go ahead and start work, and who chooses work???)


I like what Brick pointed out. It all depends on what YOU want out of this pursuit. If you’re just staying in shape, and the 3x/week works for you, thats great. It’s probably easier to be motivated when you don’t have to get there 6-7 times each week after work or school. Of course, if you’re serious about seeing “just how far” you can go, possibly even competing, well, that motivation better be stoked, because it’s a long road, and you won’t get there with the same training approach as a weekend warrior would make use of.

When I used to feel like not going to train, maybe after an especially rough day at work, I would sit on my couch for a little bit, and always eventusally come to the realization that this was the day where what I ultimately did might be the deciding factor when it came down to me and another competitor for the top spot. Now I don’t mean to say that sometimes a day off isn’t the smarter choice, but I would always tell myself when I was dragging ass, spacing out between sets, and even on rare ocassions being on the verge of tears as my body let me know it wasn’t happy, that these were the moments that truly make champions.

Just my 2 cents :slight_smile:



Thanks for all the suggestions friends.

Motivation usually is not a limiting factor for myself, but I suppose lately I have been stuck in a rut and have recently came back from an injury which also left me frustrated.

I also think that as it is winter here, the lack of sunlight has had an impact on my mood. I will be going to China for a 2 weeks holiday soon and that should provide me with some mental relief from work and daily life

Just to let you know, after I wrote the original message I got up and went to the gym. :slight_smile:


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If I only trained when I felt like it, I’d never do it.

I hate training. I like the results of training, and I just happen to like the results of training more than I hate training itself.

Honestly, that perspective helps keep me going…but it also means I’m diseased.


Personally I call that realistic, but there you go. Lots of elements of training suck, but they’re often the ones that drive results the best.

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I always feel better for having gone, even if I didn’t want to go when I woke, and weight lifting makes the rest of my life better so I’d rather schedule around my lifting than schedule my lifting around other things. Let yourself turn into a lazy blob and see what happens to your life and you’ll understand that getting to the gym is one of the most important things to do in a week.

I go three days a week, too, and found the question a little odd anyway. Three times a week shouldn’t really interfere with anything. If you were going six days a week, twice a day, then I’d wonder about your life/gym balance because then it’s practically a job.

I’m coming up on close to 3 years of continuous barbell training. I’ve always lifted either 3 or 4 days per week, never more than 4 hours in total. Consistency has not been a weak point of mine. To echo some of what others have said.

  1. Power of habit. Hitting the gym is, among other things, personal maintenance for me, not much different from brushing and flossing. I’ve just made it something I do.

  2. Prioritization. Family obligations first, work second, gym third. That leaves a lot of things I’m willing to let slide before I skip the gym. Dishes and kitchen clean-up are probably the most common thing that I will put off until the next day, but I’ve also missed out on MANY after-work happy hour gatherings.

  3. Planned deloads. Having a week where I know I’ll have more time and energy for errands and chores helps me stay on top of life.

  4. Making it time-efficient. I’d love to go lift at the powerlifting gym 30 minutes away, but that’s not realistic for me to fit into my life week-in, week-out. So I lift at the local joint, because it is a 3 minute drive from my office. Right now I’m doing 4 day upper/lower, and none of these take more than 45 minutes, unless jaw gets worked that day too. When I was doing 3 day/week full-body I was taking closer to an hour, but I could probably do those workouts in 45 minutes now too.

  5. Work/life balance. Prior to taking my present salaried position, I was an independent consultant. This had me living much of my life in hotels and eating most of my meals from restaurants, earning me a body that reflected that. A major reason I took this job was to make personal care a bigger priority. I made this known to my employer. My boss knows I lift after work, and he knows it is important to me. So on the rare occasions where I need to put in extra time, I don’t have to sacrifice lifting. I’ve even came back to the office sweaty and smelly after the gym to do what needed to be done. My boss is fine with this because I was up-front about my priorities and the work always gets done.

  6. I’m not doing Jack Shit. This is a Wendler 5/3/1 template, which consists of just going in and doing the big lift for the day (squat, dl, bench or strict press) and then leaving. I’ve ran this for a few stretches here and there, and I’m sure I’ll run it again in the future.

So to answer your question of…

I’ve gotten to the point where there isn’t much decision to make. It is just what I do unless something very important comes up, and even then I just lift at a different time, if possible. I also have a basement gym that doesn’t get used very often, but is there for snow storms or days where I’m really busy. Even on my busiest days I can find 30 minutes to go downstairs and accomplish something.

As an aside, from one pale guy to another, make sure you’re getting your vitamin D, especially during short winter days. I didn’t for a long time and noticed a very significant shift in mood, energy and general feeling of well-being when I started taking it.


This one hundred per cent. You can almost always squeeze the gym in at least twice a week. If your programming has you training four days a week, that means you can if necessary run two days into one by cutting out the non-essential work. Not ideal, but it means you can still get the basics done for a week or two.


I admire your willingness to put family ahead of work. Time and time again I’ve read famous people writing about putting family first but when you read about them or what they say about their lives, they actually put their work first. I have the sneaking suspicion no one breaks into the top of their profession otherwise.

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just by being honest with yourself. If you can’t be bothered because you just can’t be bothered then you need to suck it up and just go. If you’re REALLY tired and/or hurt then chances are a night off (and possibly a cheat meal) should mean more productive sessions later in the week so you might as well just rest.

You have to be honest with yourself as to which it is.

I will say though that I have no problem missing the gym for important social stuff. No problem with that at all.


There’s also the possibility that you are pushing beyond your ability to recover for too long and need to lower intensity or volume.

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1 - stop being flexible. Write a routine, do the routine, end of discussion.