FEAR AND COURAGE IN THE GYM
By Keith Wassung
I will turn 41 tomorrow and just finished up a great training session. I felt a certain amount of fear during this workout, but that is nothing new as I have felt the presence of fear in most of my workouts over the 27 years of lifting. Not the “pee your pants” shaking in your boots type of fear, but rather than little voice that does everything possible to prevent your success. One of the first workouts I ever did was a squat for 65lbs for 6-7 reps-it was hard, heavy and I was scared before and during the set. A little over ten years later I was squatting 600lbs for the same number of reps and it was still just as hard, just as heavy and I was still just as scared. Boys are told at an early age to not be a “fraidy cat” and that fear is to be avoided like the plague. I believe that one of the keys to progress and success is not the avoidance of fear, but rather confronting and defeating it. The immortal John Wayne said that “Courage is being scared to death — and saddling up anyway."
Show me a person who had never felt fear in the gym and I will show you a person who is either a maniac (and there are a few of those in the iron game) or a person who is very average and in all likelihood will stay that way. I have had workouts where I felt no fear at all. They were training sessions where I had decided that it would be best to just do some “maintenance work” or not push too hard for any variety of reasons. On those days, fear did not make its presence known because I had already made the decision to fail in advance of the workout.
I have an uncle, who is a nice fellow, but very pessimistic. He tends to disguise his pessimism in the form of being wise and caring. If someone in our family tells him that they are considering going into the hardware store business, he will lovingly reply that the hardware business is a tough business and that he had had several friends lose everything they had trying the same thing. If someone says they are going to Miami for a vacation, he will say that Miami is a nice place, but it had the highest tourist murder rate in the country. He never comes right out and tells someone that they will fail, but he sure likes to suggest and imply it. Fear is the exact same way. It makes hints and suggestions and always tries to encourage you to take the easy path. Fear has a tendency to go after you in areas in which you are most vulnerable. It finds and exposes your areas of weakness.
The following are some methods to help you “saddle up”
Just show up. Make a determined decision that you will show up for your workout no matter what the circumstances. Have a plan and have a back-up plan. Your boss assigns you a last minute project and you have to work late and by the time you leave work the gym is closed. Decide in advance what you would do. Is there another gym in town that is open later, do you have a friend with a home gym? I strongly encourage everyone to have some type of equipment at their home, even if they have a gym membership. It does not have to be anything fancy-a pair if adjustable dumbbells stashed in the closet will do.
You arrive home late and you only have ten minutes to train-its amazing what you can do in ten minutes if you have made a decision to show up no matter what the circumstances. Pick your most productive compound move an do as many reps as you can in ten minutes in a rest-pause fashion. Some of the most incredible training sessions I have ever had have been these short, last minute, impromptu type workouts.
Start your day our right. I have found that I can tell what kind of day I am going to have by what happens in the first thirty minutes that I am awake. If I wake up and discover that we are out of coffee, or I can’t find my wallet, keys etc then all of a sudden I am in a mad scramble and then I skip breakfast and get something “on the way” to work and the whole day sort of follows that same pattern including the training session. Take five minutes before going to bed and ensure you have everything ready to go for the next day. Pack your gym bag, get the coffee pot prepared (if you drink coffee) Make sure you have whatever food items you will need for the next day. I even lay out all of my supplements on the vanity in the bathroom so that I won’t forget to take them.
Take the time to properly warm-up. I will be honest, I hate warming up. It seems like such a waste of time and energy. The real reason that most guys hate warming up is that it exposes our pathetic level of conditioning. Though I have taken measures to correct this, there was a time when a simple ten minute warm-up almost left me winded, and then you start worrying that it will affect your lifts for that day. Ten minutes of warming up will just about equal ten hours of rehabilitation for an injured muscle. Years ago, I had to have some repairs made on my truck, so I was without a vehicle for a couple of days. I had a ride to work, but no way to get to the gym, which was about 8 miles from my house. My neighbor loaned me his bicycle and I decided to ride it to the gym. As I was riding along, I knew that this particularly day was a heavy squat day and that I would probably have to go light or cancel it altogether knowing that after a long bike ride, there was no way that I could handle heavy squats. I arrived at the gym and began my workout. The squats had never felt so smooth and I had an incredible workout. I have found that the best warm-up is to do something that elevates your overall body temperature and then doing a couple of singles with the weights to get your body primed for the big sets.
When doing any set that involves multiple repetitions, focus on doing just one rep at a time. If you are going to do 8 reps, then think of your set as 8x1, rather than 1x8. When you are on rep number two and you are “thinking” about reps 6-8, this drains you of the necessary mental energy and allows fear to win. Focusing on one rep at a time also will allow you to use “near perfect” form.
There are certain things that you would not do if I offered you a million dollars, but you would not hesitate to do the same thing for free for someone you love. Dedicate an especially tough set or series of repetitions to someone you love or someone you care about and then do it. You will be amazed at the extra power it will give you. When performing a 20 rep set of squats, the last couple of reps are hard and painful, but at least you know it’s almost over and that can help you finish the set. The tough reps are from about 11-17 as they are just as painful, but you know that you still have a long way to go. I often dedicate these types of reps to people in my family, friends and often our brave soldiers that are defending our country.
Reward yourself. When you reach certain milestone goals in your lifting then celebrate by rewarding yourself with a new piece of equipment or a special dinner, etc. My family knows that if Dad has a really good Saturday workout, then it’s dinner at the Outback Steakhouse that night. They often come out to my garage gym and cheer me on-ok, they are really cheering for a steak, but I pretend it’s for me. Sales organizations frequently have inventive contest for their sales people because they are highly effective. Use little things like this in your training for bigger gains.
One last quote from John Wayne-I am not sure what it will mean to you, but it hits me a certain way.
“Life is tough, but its even tougher when you’re stupid” John Wayne
great piece. I am going to start preparing things the night before to make the morning rush go smoother. Thanks for posting this!
great post Keith! i reward myself with dairy queen if that counts at all but i do work hard!
You will soon see Getfit in OngII Flying Knee Thingys of Doom see if the feisty greek can survive the kicks of Steel Leg From Shaolin Soccer,Dim Mak(def touch) from ChungLee,and Flying Crane by Daniel-san-El Pietro
Spray it with windex greek!-the famous El Pietro
You be quiet or i'll clean and press your narrow francophone self-Callahan
Lift for gains,not glory.Control your ego and the weight
What a strong girl! This leads me to believe you can severly injure most of the male population-Nick Hatfield
You're blazing white hot,anyone ever tell you that? Sometimes i think you have fingers faster then Superman when it comes to posts on WBB forums.
Hot in terms of both speed and... well new hotness- Stash
Are those your words Keith?
If so; that was a great post.
Out of the night that covers me,Black as the Pit from pole to pole,I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul. In The fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance my head is bloody, but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but the horror of the shade And yet the menace of the years finds, and shall find, me unafraid. It matters not how strait the gate how charged with punishments the scroll,I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
Twitter: @joshuagbsn Follow me as I laugh at the world, and you.
Yes, I wrote this post this afternoon
Great post and perfect timing. I read that right before the lifting today and I set a new personal best in squatting.
Nice post, Keith. I tend to think about things in my life that I'm trying to improve on, as I go for that tough rep or set. I tell myself "if you can't get this rep, how are you ever gonna get out of debt..how are you gonna improve anywhere else, if this piece of iron beats you!"
Last edited by Patz; 05-30-2005 at 10:14 PM.
"The only sin which we never forgive in each other is difference of opinion."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
All your posts that i've read are great keith.
Excellent read as usual!
I find this to be particularly important.Originally Posted by Keith Wassung
Last edited by Progress; 05-31-2005 at 07:15 AM.
I have to disagree with the premise in this post. How can one fear something they truly enjoy? I suppose if one enjoys rock climbing or something that is highly dangerous along those lines that can be possible. But the gym? Don't think you can get a squat up? Use a power rack and safety bars. Same for bench. A failed deadlift can be safely dropped to the floor.Originally Posted by Keith Wassung
And no, I am neither a manic or average person. Just someone who enjoys the challenge and relishes the thrill of struggling under a heavy weight. Any fear is crushed by the thrill of meeting and then exceeding your goals. At least that's been my experience.
That said I do agree though with the overall message in your post and as for the tips, Great Advice!
Maybe hidden fears are behind procrastination? You know, if I do this people will expect more of me, if I go there people will come up and talk to me...and find out Im not good at conversation. Or the fear of injury. The fear of looking goofy. Stuff like that.
Nice dude...Extremly motivational thank you
i liked this
but i really believe in a "no exceptions" type of training. i have no workout equipment at home because i know on a workout day i WILL be in the gym and i WILL be mentally prepared. and i will give it my all
delete this account
I fear many of the activities that I enjoy, and it basically keeps me alive. Rock climbing, white water rafting, lifting, shooting guns, etc. I'm paranoid about checking my ropes, etc. It's a healthy respect for the danger involved.Originally Posted by ExtremeAnabolic
I'm also nervous when I do things like max a lift. Hell, I've had my hands go tingly when psyching up for a max dead.
These are two slightly different conditions though.
i agree... i also think he is talkin more of a fear of incompetence than a physical fear.Originally Posted by MixmasterNash
Great article Keith. I've found myself in fear of getting under the bar for squats almost every leg session I've had in the past 6 months. I've also found a good way to combat this fear is too think of the feeling you get every single week when your done your squat and leg session. You know, that feeling where you KNOW you had feared doing this session, yet you still went ahead and did it. I always feel so accomplished and proud after a heavy leg session, even if the session itself didn't go so well. Thinking of this feeling gets me motivated far past what any fear can hold back.
"I added some db curls with the pink weights for a bit of a burn." - Rookiebldr
"im assuming the holy (big) 3 are: curls, bench, legs?" - Saggas
"had a huge ass burn on my triceps while I was doing those kickbacks, so they'll likely be staying with my exercise program." - Zearoth
"most of my burned calories coming from something called Basal. Wtf does a leaf have to do with any of it?" - Votorx
"We have a lot of people like that on our campus, all hippies and things, that go around preaching against corporations, jocks, preps, accountants, and anyone else that feels the need to shower more than occasionally." - Shankerr
"Damn man why are some women just so demonic and evil.. its like you wanna get a stake and mallet and an erection at the same time." - WBBIRL
Cool idea. Can't believe I never thought of that.Originally Posted by Keith Wassung
Originally Posted by MixmasterNash
Numbers are mine
(1) Read my third sentence of my first post.
And fear and being nervous yes are two different conditions.
Last edited by Songsangnim; 06-03-2005 at 09:46 AM.
Um, yeah. I was basically agreeing with you and stating my personal experience.Originally Posted by ExtremeAnabolic