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Mental Struggles and Training

Hey guys, I’m just curious to know if anyone else has had their own personal mental struggles affect their physical training? I’m talking depression, anxiety whatever it may be or both. I always read how training is therapeutic for the brain but for me it’s been the complete opposite. I eat good I follow a good plan but then there are those days my brain and what it does to me causes me to train like shit Just curious if anyone can relate. It’s like the body goes where the brain tells it to. I can’t get out of my own way

I have both, sometimes pretty intensely.

I look at it like this: I’ve had some bad days. I pushed through a lot of them, and had more that were better than worse. But sometimes the bad days won. Not nearly as many times as they would have had I not had something to get up and go for though.

On balance, it has been a huge plus, and I’m pretty sure that I’m far on the positive side of having reaped benefits from lifting.


I have mild / low level bipolar. And I’ll go straight in with the bad news:
There is no way to bypass a shitty state of mind. Sometimes it just happens. And there is fuck all you can do to prevent it.

But just know that any exercise is help full. Even if you turn up and do a few singles with 80% of your max.

What I do is treat my mental health like a long term injury.
Like all long term injuries, some weeks/months they do not play up. So I make the most of it. I remember that these are a gift. I seldom miss training when my injury is not playing up.
On the weeks months it is playing up I change my goals according to how bad it is. I either accept a limited progress, a maintenance of current levels or if needed a drop off. And sometimes I just go the gym to break a sweat. I just “go for the glow”.

The most important thing to do is remember that it is not your fault. The idea that diet and exercise can control mental health is correct. But not fully. There will always be those times you plunge right off the edge of the world for no reason. So chin up and keep plugging away.


Thanks for the responses. Yeah I really struggle with the depression I’m going through and it literally feels like it has made me physically weaker some days. No matter how much I eat, sleep, rest or follow my program to the exact point, I have days I literally get pancaked by weight I should be lifting. The anxiety that goes into.it amplifies it too. It’s so frustrating it has left me ready to throw in the flag on my training many times

I don’t know what program you’re following, but I’ve discovered that too much volume (too many exercises and/or too many sets and reps per exercise in a session) or high intensity (multiple sets of one to four reps) on compound lifts for more than a month negatively affect my mood and outlook. Instead of looking forward to lifting, I dread and skip it. When I find myself sliding into a funk, switching to a program of lower volume and less intensity helps, as does regular walking.

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Training used to be really unhealthy for me. Rock bottom was a few months ago when o was working with a coach and on blast. I lived for gains/progress and was willing to do anything to make it happen. When the progress was slow or non existent it took my to a place mentally that was extremely dark. I was angry, depressed, and filled with rage and hate for myself. Looking back I was totally over training, and the best thing I could have done was pump the breaks, not continue to go harder and more often.

I’ve got to a point now where I just don’t care. The bad workouts, or good ones don’t define me or my worth. Neither does my body. I’m working out because I want to, and I remind myself often. It’s been pretty mentally freeing to know it doesn’t matter if I have a good workout or a bad one, it’s gonna be ok.


For a decent chunk of 2020, yep. Reading back through my training log in March-April-May, my brain was more focused on the early stages of the pandemic than getting my cardio in or whatever, so anxiety and other stressors definitely bumped training/nutrition down on the priority list.

I also went through a similar episode a few years ago when I had a family member in the hospital. Spending 15+ hours a week sitting bedside watching someone slip away kinda forces you to re-evaluate your training week. If it doesn’t, you’ve got issues.

This is 100% true. That’s a benefit or an obstacle, depending on what your brain is saying.

Like some of the guys have said, it’d be more useful to learn to adjust training in the short-term in order to stay active in general. Trying to stick to a rigid plan when your brain/body isn’t into it will only lead to frustration.

Don’t train minimally

Don’t train maximally

Train Optimally!



This hits home for sure!!! I think I’ve found my sweet spot, still playing with frequency but I’m so close! Once I nail down diet I think I’ll be golden. Even though small, I’ve seen progress, and that’s more than there’s been!

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I feel you, OP.
How do you gents determine if it’s your training (volume, frequency, whatever) stressing you vs. life? Like when is your session the problem instead of the escape?

For me it was when life continued on as is, but I took a break from the gym and my life enjoyment meter increased. Then I started back working out with more rest days and enjoyment of life stayed the same. Then I’d go workout when I felt I needed a rest day and quality of life would diminish once again…

What sucks is I have the (perceived) energy, drive and motivation to workout 7 days a week. Apparently I lack the ability to recover from that though and just continuity compounded under recovered workouts on top of other under recovered workouts and it started effecting me physically, and then THAT started to effect me mentally. Rinse and repeat for a long time all the while thinking I needed MORE lol

This is somewhat of a new revelation so I’m still working out the kinks and fine tuning it, but that’s how I currently feel.

Edit: I think another thing I struggled with is I’ve always been proud of the fact that I believed I could work harder than anyone else (when i wanted lol). I’ve always prided myself on the ability to withstand a lot work wise, in my actual career and in the gym. So much so that I think I loosely tied my identity to my ability to be a “hard worker”. So when the hard work wasn’t “paying off” and I thought I needed more, and then that ran me down even more… I felt bad mentally about it. I felt like I had let myself down or something. Idk, it’s a weird thing to think about and try to explain.


I’m identifying with a lot of your post. I’m struggling with the “right amount” lately and I’m the same in that I think I “should” be able to do more all the time.

I don’t want to hijack this at all, OP, so if this is getting off-topic - tell me. We’re all here to support


Great post by wannabe! Have the guts to back off for awhile, then listen to your body as return and ramp things up.

If you have trouble following his process, start keeping track of stuff with a calendar. Mark a black “T” on days you train, a green “+” on days you feel particularly good and a red “-” on days you feel particularly bad.

After a month or two you’ll have a great visual of what’s going on. You can see how the green marks get less dense and the red marks begin to appear when the black marks get too close together.


The hardest part is that I absolutely love training and chasing numbers, hitting PRs and I’ll get on a good role with getting there but then if I don’t hit the numbers I want, my mind won’t let me rest and get over it. It’s like a beast inside that needs to be layed to rest. And the reason I don’t get there is because of my mind and what I’m going through but when I try to move on, that same mind won’t let me. It’s really like a nightmare. It’s a never ending cycle.

That’s why I asked if depression, anxiety can also literally make you physically weaker because some days I feel like it. There has to be some correlation between the two. I can’t find any studies on it but there must be some relation.

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Thibadeau has written a bunch about “stimulus addiction.” Here’s a little sample.

Last year on lock down I was doing a mad programme. Kinda a hash between 20 rep squats and 531. It was insane.
Looking back I can say I was in a mania stage. I was just about recovering. JUST. I won’t lie I miss the enthusiasm I had for training at that point in time. And the result. But not the crash. When you feel like you have infinite fuel you burn it hard. And you do not see the crash coming.

For me the reason behind the stress are not important. The reaction is always the same. I tone down the workouts. This removes a source of stress. And then I get back to thinking clearly. From there I can start to look at exactly what is going on.

Yes. 100%. Ask any professional sports person if they can preform at their best if they are feeling depressed? Your mind is every bit as important as your body. If your mind is not right there with you amount of physical strength will be of any use.

FYI watch some Luke Stoltman. He is VERY into this sort of thing.


Most of the time I feel as if life stress is somewhat out of my control to adjust, while training stress is in my control. I subscribe to the model that your body doesn’t distinguish between the two stressors anyway, and that training stress and life stress combine to serve as opposing factors to your recovery. Hence, if overall stress seems to be too great in relation to my recovery it is my intent to reduce training stress (I don’t always follow through on this…) or “enhance” recovery via food.


Absolutely. A while back in my log I had a few sessions when I was just clobbered. Those are the sessions when I tend to go off-script and just do something where I have no real clue if I “won” or “lost” and just push myself enough within reason.

For instance, if I’ve been doing overhead presses as my main and I just know I won’t be able to hit my numbers or beat my log I’d just do overhead presses with a trap-bar instead because I have never done that. And, if I’m out of options that I’ve never done I’ll do something I haven’t done in a long time. Or do a rep-range I haven’t done. Or do some weird tempo-thing.

I just remove the comparison element. That’s what I do.


@Voxel @carlbm I totally get your points about stress is stress, and training is the one you can control. I guess I was more looking at it from a POV that training is my escape from life, so I can definitely see it as a stress-reducer. Sometimes, though, I overdo it and it becomes additive. That doesn’t necessarily change your approach (just back off), but it can be difficult to tell when training is hurting vs helping.

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Try and train. Some days you can’t, and some days you’ll be done 1/3 of the way through. There will be a tomorrow and a day or five delay in working out to hunker down and try to get your mind right is not gonna have much effect on long term goals. Training shouldn’t be an unbearable chore, it should be a bit of a release and something to make you feel productive.

Train when you can, and don’t beat yourself up when your head just won’t allow it.