Mind Games

People underestimate the mental soreness that follows from serious training. Just as the anticipation of pain is as bad as pain itself, the mental preparation required for a big lift – or an entire leg day for that matter – is as exhausting as the physical workout.

I know what happens to me when mental fatigue sets in and I start to lose my concentration. I’ll find myself doing presses with an 85 pound dumbbell in my right hand and an 80 pound dumbbell in my left. Or I’ll absent-mindedly load my barbell with a weight unrelated to what I normally use.

Of course, loss of focus is all relative. I had the opportunity this week to watch a fellow member do his best impression of staggering home drunk. What started as a normal walk from one machine to another ended with a sudden stumble, a flailing of limbs, and a water bottle spilling all over the floor.

At this point, you could see the wheels of indecision turning in this guy’s head. Should he compound his embarrassment by grabbing some paper towels and starting to wipe from his knees? Or should he just keep moving and put as much distance as possible between himself and the incident?

I thought to myself that there was actually a third way, an old trick that I learned in the huge, anonymous lecture halls at law school. When the professor picks your name off the roll to answer some obscure question – or you happen to spill your drink all over the gym floor – just turn sideways and stare intensely at the person next to you.

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