T Nation

The Mental Side


Looks like we’ve got more people competing on here now. We talk a lot about physical preparation, injuries, recovery but almost nothing about the mental side of what we do. Even when not competing it takes a mind set different than the average person’s to go into a work out knowing you could hurt or injure yourself. What makes us do it at our age. Any input, secrets to share, advise, discussion?


Great question.

Like all of us, I have certainly had my share of injuries, including tearing a tendon off the bone at a meet. And I have some chronic issues I have to work around or at least take into consideration or they bite me.

And I’ve had periods of time where fear of injury dominated and I’ve had to back off for a time. But ultimately the rush of it all supercedes fear for me. Especially the rush of the platform. It’s almost like an addiction. I get an incredible high from squatting a weight that feels like it’s going to staple me when I unrack it. (And that doesn’t take much weight for me!) I must admit I get a much lesser rush pulling and no rush at all benching.

Bottom line for me is that powerlifting is a very dimensional sport that is just so damn fun. While I’ve considered giving it up a number of times out of frustration or concern for safety, I always come back to it.


That is a really good and honest answer.


Hmmm. That is a complicated question. After 5 years, I’m sort of in “habit” mode. Going to the gym is a habit.

I do vary exercises, combinations, splits and training style (higher weights, lower reps/sets, vs lower weights and higher reps/sets) for a little variety, but infrequently. Otherwise it is difficult to measure progress. Periodization helps with novelty. I try to vary ancillary work: sprints, runs, biking, walking, swimming, skateborading,e tc.

I don’t compete, so hitting that 450 lb squat isn’t something I “have” to do. I do worry about injury, but I mitigate injury by almost always using weights where I can do 3 or 4 reps. That is essentially my max effort now.

My most common injury is a back “tweak” on deadlift or squat. On the worst cases, I’m laid up in bed for two days. Usually happens when I’m tired due to work strain and lack of sleep, and I"m still trying to squeeze in a workout.

I typically use two mental tricks. 1) When I get under the bar or weight, I say to myself, “You have to want it.” While working, especially with heavy weights, I try to visualize the weight going up.


For me, it is the one thing in my life where I enjoy the process over the goal. Ive always been goal oriented, to a fault, meaning at the sake of taking the proper process. Not here, the whole journey to the meet means so much. If I didnt enjoy the process so much I dont think I would compete especially after some epic failures lol.

Other than my family (includes my dogs) and close friends I dont have passion for much else other than lifting, we all need passion in our lives other than our family or livlihood. This is it for me. I like that the average person doesent understand it, I take pride when someone scoffs at the notion of lifting weights for the enjoyment of it and the opportunity to compete. It is a big part of my identity now.

I consider injuries just part of the territory and at times like a badge of courage in a way (relatively speaking of course Im not saying I deserve a purple heart)

Passion + Drive = lifer at this stuff


Great answer. Love the “I enjoy the process over the goal” and think it’s probably that way with a lot of people.


Sounds like you like to keep activity which is a good thing,


I just love the challenge. Overcoming injuries is part of that. Competing only fuels the fire. “Normal” people who do not compete can never understand that.

I have only been competing for five years. Prior that I still trained, but it was different. Looking back, I was like the rat on the little wheel thingy. You just show up and do your thing. Competing adds an end goal. It adds drive. It adds energy. In the last five years I have become the strongest in my life, at an age when others are on the decline.


So much truth in that.


I have been sitting here staring at this for 15 minutes and still can’t seem to hone my thoughts into anything coherent.
I love lifting weights. I love feeling strong (even if I am not the strongest). I love feeling like I have accomplished something…that I have overcome.

Human beings are designed to aspire, to have goals, to see the horizon and yearn to know what is just over it.
It is in doing that we grow, conquer our demons and find fulfillment. Some people can multitask that. For me, I tend to hyper-focus.

Even though I don’t do competitions, I love the competitiveness of it. Whether that is to be the only person in the gym that can MP 315# (whether or not anyone else notices) or to see that next, still defiant weight and sweat, grunt, and grind it down until it is just another conquered foe on the heap.

I, honestly, don’t think much of injury, other than back. I don’t squat or deadlift because of spondy. But, I still do heavy MP’s and, occasionally, heavy shrugs, which both aggravate it. I think that I accept a degree of pain and setback (injury, in this case) as just a part of life. Especially if one is truly willing to push their boundaries.
So, I guess that I have also accepted the fact that my continued heavy lifting will ultimately lead to back surgery. I don’t know that it is avoidable either way, just that lifting will hasten it. So, if it is going to happen either way, I may as well do my thing and go as high as I can until I can’t. And then I will find another way to push it.

Three things that immediately up my sense of well being and quality of life…hearing my children laugh, seeing my wife smile and making an aspiration into an accomplishment.


Great reply. Deep brother and oh so true.


I have only been at this for a year now, which has mostly been learning. Still have so much to learn.
I was always pretty strong, and driving made me tough, but when I got a job at a distributing company, I got stronger than I had ever been in my entire life! After losing my job, not being able to find another one, I got really down. Didn’t want to eat, couldn’t sleep, just pretty much eff’d me up. All that strength that i had painfully built was all but gone!

So, I started out with bodyweight and 5lb dumbells. Not a clue what to do. I had been told for over 20 years that I would NEVER have a flat stomach again due a c section. It was stupid to want muscles. I would look like a man. All bullshit!

So for me it is about being an even better version of my badass self. I used to strike fear in hearts of mere mortals, and i want that back. But, with a lot better attitude. I don’t want to hear one more person say…but you’re so tiny. That just rips me. Maybe someday I will be strong enough to compete. I would like to think so. But if all this leads to nothing else, I am still acomplishing something. My eleven year old son is autistic, and doesn’t really play like other kids. He lacks certain motor skills, but excels in others. When I told him the other he should do some push ups while he was down there on tbe floor. He tucked his hands up to his arm pits and tried. I asked him how he knew to do that? His answer, " by watching you mama" That’s all I need!


Striking fear in the hearts of mere mortals is easy. Striking respect is harder but a lot more satisfying. I believe lifting, training, whatever you want to call it leads to confidence and confidence helps lead to self respect which is the first step in getting the respect of others.


That is true. I earned the respect at the distribution company. They were all betting that I would not come back after the first day. I was there almost 2 years. Then another distributor came to me and offered me a better job with more money and better benefits. Lasted a year and a half there, till they sold out. That freaking dolly kicked my ass the first couple weeks. I hurt so bad, but I made it! Respect is always earned, never given.


Great topic… on my end I’m just a sadist . Just joking its a mixture of what allot in here have already said. But as of late I can feel my two boys slowly creeping up and challenging my Alpha male status at home. Sorry for the simplistic answer will write more in detail latter.


Some nights I go to the gym and i am ready to kill myself as i’m going to work so hard and push myself. Sadly this mind-set is not as regular as I would like.

Luckily for me my Gym has a pool, steam room and Jacuzzi so I go in the gym and set myself a small target of 2 or 3 exercises then a nice swim and Jacuzzi. Once im in the gym and actually training I normally tell myself im here and warmed up I might as well do another 2 and then 9 times out of 10 I end up doing a full workout and feeling great about it! For me the key is making sure I get my ass in the gym.