This is a guest post by Dave Rak
There is no doubt that training with others will make your workouts more enjoyable and also increase performance. One major factor that separates the best gyms in the country isn’t exercise selection or how they program workouts, it is often the culture that is created by the people inside those gym walls. Unfortunately, not everyone can always train at these facilities or even have a training partner. Some individuals have to train solo more often than not and this can create some obstacles. Motivation, accountability, and feedback will be limited in these scenarios. The challenge is creating an environment to be successful in. Here are some easily accessible tools to get the most out of your training when you are forced to workout alone.
1. Video Tape Your Lifts
The great thing about training partners or group training is you always have someone to watch form and give feedback on lifts. When you’re training alone there are some things you can’t see or feel for yourself. Recording your sets allows you to play back your reps and see where you can improve technique. Also, there will be times where a rep or set doesn’t feel great. You may think the bar moved slowly, you broke form, or your positioning was off. Oftentimes your mind plays tricks on you and the video shows the lift wasn’t as bad as you thought. It’s funny how often a lift may feel like crap and then you’re surprised that it was clean on tape!
Another benefit of video is it will give you an accurate measure of progress over time. Training alone means you don’t have a coach to track your training or a training partner to point out that your moving the bar better compared to 12 weeks ago. Progress does not have to be marked by more weight on the bar. More reps at a certain weight and even lifting a weight with more ease and better technical proficiency means progress. Seeing and measuring this less than obvious progress is important. By keeping some videos you will not miss out on seeing your improvements.
2. Social Media to Create Your Own Environment
To take video a step further you can tie in social media to enhance your solo training.
Greg Robins has done an outstanding job of creating an environment where people from all over the country/world can train together regardless of their geographic location. The Strength House is an online community for individuals to receive online coaching, post videos, and receive feedback and guidance in their training. The Strength House has its own gym culture, environment and sense of family just like you would find at a training facility. You don’t have to be part of the Strength House or outsource your training for distance coaching to get these benefits. You and your friends can use different social media platforms, make them public or private, and then hold each other accountable in addition to helping assess and improve technique.
Facebook allows you to create your own group page to upload and comment on videos. Instagram allows private video messaging with your friends and followers as well. These social media platforms create a great forum to connect with anyone, at anytime and essentially creates a virtual training partner that gives you what you are missing when you train alone. If you miss a training session and don’t post to your training group everyone knows. There is no hiding and poor excuses won’t be tolerated.
Accountability, coaching, and camaraderie can all be found through an online platform
3. Find Excitement
A key to getting quality results is training consistently. There will undoubtedly be stretches of time where heading to the weight room will be the last thing you want to do.
Training with friends, teammates, and coaches can help refill your willpower when it’s running low. When you’re by yourself you need to find that will power on your own. Even as a strength coach who works in a gym I can say that I’ve dreaded training on some days; it happens to everyone.
Sleeping in or binge watching Season 2 of Narcos on Netflix can sometimes be more enticing then a trip to the gym. Having something that triggers your motivation can be a huge factor in keeping you on track. You don’t need a big fancy goal to motivate you, remember it’s about being able to show up day in and day out and not make excuses to miss training sessions. This motivational trigger should be something personal. In my case, the shirts I wear while training remind me of home and the places that are special to me. Also, I will wear shirts from a top powerlifting company as a reminder of what level I want my lifting to be at one day.
Be creative with music. Make a pre workout playlist. Title it something meaningful.
You don’t always have control over the radio at the gym and honestly that shouldn’t matter 100% of the time. However listening to a pre workout playlist the night before you train or on your walk over to the gym can help you get excited and put you in the right mind-fame to crush your training session. It can shift your negative thoughts to positive ones.
(The title of one of my playlists represents my goal of totaling 1,300lbs at my next powerlifting meet.)
It’s always better to train with others. Training environment and the people around you will always make a huge impact on your training. So if you don’t have that luxury and it’s just you in the weight room, small reminders such as the shirt on your back or the music in your ears can carry you through that one-day where you want to avoid the gym. Be creative and find what motivates you. Create the environment you want to train in. You have the tools to make working out by yourself enjoyable. It’s up to you to make it happen.
Dave Rak is an Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach at the University of Washington and can be reached at [email protected]