Originally written for the WOGPT blog, cross-posted here with permission
Having lived in Bangkok, Thailand for the entire time I’ve been a powerlifter, I’ve never had the luxury of having a “home gym,” or even a training partner. The sport is growing here, but we certainly don’t have the type of training environments available in other parts of the world. Because of that, I’ve always lifted, and competed, on my own. I never really thought about how that might be different until powerlifters around the world started having to train at home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
All of a sudden people started to realize what it feels like to go for a max effort attempt without a spot, or to not have a handoff for bench, or just be totally alone during a training session. This is my everyday training experience, and although I really have nothing to compare it to, I love it! The actual training is so much fun (thanks to Ryan) that I never thought about what I was “missing” until others highlighted their changed experience.
Now that I’m also training at home (in my 2 bedroom, 14th floor condo, still in Bangkok), instead of my reasonably equipped local gym, I’m recognizing that all that training on my own has prepared me well to make the transition to quarantine life. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the last few years of training on my own…
Simple habits can create an environment
The only time I listen to podcasts is when I’m lifting. So it doesn’t matter if I’m training at home or at my usual gym, or a random gym I need to train at while traveling, as soon as I put in my headphones and one of my podcasts comes on, I get into the training zone. I focus on what I’m doing and (usually) pretty much completely lose track of time.
Create a schedule
I am very fortunate to own my own business, so I set my daily schedule. Since my brain tends to be on fire in the morning and slows down around lunch, I usually lift mid-day. Now that I’m lifting at home, I can really train whenever – I don’t have to worry about going later and not having access to the equipment I need – but I’m still sticking to my normal schedule. A daily routine helps what could be a very strange time feel much more normal and stable.
Find the fun / challenge / focus
Like everyone, I’m not always feeling excited to train, and I know I can’t count on any gym vibes to help me out (it’s a typical commercial gym, but also somehow worse because it’s regularly used as a photo studio, which often makes me angry and frustrated more than anything else). So before I even leave the house (or start a training session), I look at my lifts for the day and find something to be excited about, or something to work on. Maybe it’s a mini-goal, like a rep-PR, or an opportunity to work on some aspect of technique, or something new I haven’t tried before. There’s always some little nugget of fun I can find every single day. So even if enthusiasm is low, there’s always something to look forward to.
Learn how to fail
I know I’m not supposed to be failing lifts during training. But it happens. And it’s always scary (well, squat & bench and their variations are scary). Making sure your gym equipment has safeties and they’re in the right place makes a big difference. There’s no reason you can’t take a max attempt at home if your safeties are set up. Do it, fail it, try it again. It gets easier every time and then you feel like you can push harder when the time comes to go all out.
Look for the silver lining
I’m an extrovert. I love talking to people. I think I would love to have a home gym, and gym friends and feel like I was part of a gym family. But that’s not likely to happen anytime soon in Bangkok, so instead of looking to the gym as a place for community, I look at that time as an opportunity for learning and reflecting. Listening to podcasts is a great way for me to learn and lift at the same time, and sometimes I have so many ideas, I actually have to stop to write them down. Gym time has become a time for me to make connections between my professional life (in education, and running a business) and my personal hobby of lifting. Being able to see connections between those two unrelated fields has helped me improve so much, in both!
So, it really doesn’t matter how or where you’re training. Every session can be fun and empowering and enjoyable, if you can cultivate the right mindset and get yourself in that frame of mind as you start to train. It’s not likely that any of us will be traveling anytime soon, but whenever I have to train at a random gym (especially around Asia where it’s very rare for people to lift heavy), I can put all of these tips into action and have another great session!