Are You a Stressed Weightlifter?

August 24, 2018

Photocredit: Victor Freitas


Do you want to get better in Weightlifting, and work toward hitting your best numbers?

Do you want to make a run at CrossFit trying to be the best you can be?

I speak with many athletes who have these exact goals. And, I often see a point where the athlete has an overload of stress.

This overload can lead to a meltdown that pulls them away from training. I made a video speaking to this just as I do when I meet with athletes.

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The Overload:

You can call it what you want…

  • A meltdown
  • A freakout
  • Crash and burn

Many of us have used physical exertion in the gym as a form of stress relief. And, this is the exact thing that can lead us to break when we decide we want to compete or improve at a specific skill.

When we learn a skill we go through a form of stress.

Personally, I believe the stress involved in learning is a good form of stress, but stress is stress, and our nervous system has trouble telling the difference. 

So, if all of a sudden you’re feeling angry, frustrated and at the brink of blowing up this could be something to reflect on.

Was physical activity your form of stress relief, and then you took on a goal that involved learning a skill?

Let's use weightlifting as an example…

To correct technique and movement patterns often, in the beginning, your program will be short and not very taxing. Many athletes who use physical activity to relieve stress enjoy the feeling of “the burn,” or “the pump.”

And, in learning a new skill you may not feel this for a while. Yet, doing too much outside of the technique training can affect your time in the technique training. Thus, starts this cycle of stress. You can’t relieve the stress by going hard because it will adversely affect the skill you're trying to learn. The skill you’re trying to learn is frustrating and adding stress… BOOM! Nowhere for the stress to go!

This was me when I first started weightlifting…

Relieve Stress without Physical Activity

Luckily, a coach pointed out to me that weightlifting is a stressor. And, I needed to find some form of stress relief that wasn’t physical.

There are many options here, and this is something that you should develop personally. However, I’ll share what worked for me, back in my competitive days.

The “spa day”: Every Thursday was a “spa day” for me. I know… you’re rolling your eyes thinking of cucumber slices and white robes but that is not what I did. In fact, mine cost me no extra money and was simple.

I would go to the gym and utilize the sauna and hot tub. I would first start out in the sauna for 20 minutes. After, I would take a cold shower. This started the contrast therapy. After about 3 minutes in the cold shower, I went to the hot tub. I would do 2 minutes in the hot tub and then back to the shower for a 1-minute cold shower. Repeat this 5-7 times. End on cold. Put on your most comfortable sweatpants and go home to veg out!

I did this weekly. I loved it!

I never let anything interfere with a spa day and my training and recovery got a ton better.

I hope you’ll think about this if you find yourself getting stressed in the gym to the point that you break from your training program or want to change it up. If you’ve set the goal to be a better CrossFitter or weightlifter then you have to train through and stick to the program!

Good luck!

This is a guest post from Drew Dillon, head coach and co-founder of Project Lift during his lifting career as
 an athlete Drew placed as high as 4th at a USA Weightlifting Nationals and is a personal coach to 2012 Olympian Holley Mangold. He is also known as a Weber grill snob and will routinely ask you "what is for dinner" during training. You can follow Drew on Instagram and YouTube.