The challenge of working out alone without the team
Opinion of Jennie Sherwood
As a student-athlete and someone who is looking to get recruited for the physically exhausting sport of rowing, training almost every day is a huge priority of mine, even if I’m not with my team or coaches.
This past year really tested that mindset for me. I was stuck working out in my garage for five months, as well as the two weeks ELHS shut down in October. I had to learn to discipline myself as if I were my own coach or teammate and accept the simple fact that I was training alone.
I’m sure others felt the same way, whether also being a student-athlete, or just someone who wanted to stay active during quarantine. Self-motivation became key.
For me, long two-hour workouts I would’ve done at practice with my team started to become 20-minute quick hitters when I was by myself, and though that might be fine for some people, it really isn’t beneficial training for me.
I started to miss the painful rush of having just finished a long workout. I missed the feeling of complete exhaustion: legs wobbly and numb, throat dry and wheezing for air. Those were the feelings I got with my team and what made me feel like I got in the best workout.
Being alone, it can be hard to discipline yourself into working out for an hour to two hours straight. No one is with you. You can stop whenever. You can give up in the middle of a run or circuit or whatever you’re doing.
How do you feel after giving up, though? Yes, you might be saving yourself from the pain of your exercise, but do you feel accomplished? The answer is probably no, and that’s where my type of self-motivation comes in: the feeling of accomplishment. Being proud of yourself for pushing through the pain. Knowing that the long workout you just did made you stronger and more confident.
Then there’s the other challenge of finding the motivation to exercise in the first place. Getting off the couch to move your body is hard some days, and I’ve definitely been there. That’s where willpower takes its place, and there is some interesting science that goes with it.
“You want to do one thing, or you know you should do something, but you’d rather do nothing,” said Stanford health psychologist Kelly McGonial, PhD. “The need for self-control sets into motion a coordinated set of changes in the brain and body that help you resist temptation and override self-destructive urges. It’s called the pause-and-plan response, and it puts your body into a calmer state, unlike the adrenaline rush of stress. The result is you have the mindset and motivation to do what matters most.”
By developing willpower in your workouts, even when you’re alone, your body will naturally team up with the brain to increase your motivation. All it takes is routine and pushing through those first couple training sessions alone to build motivation and confidence without others by your side.
It is still unclear what the future of our sports could look like. That’s why it is important to develop these self-motivation skills to continue staying active and holding yourself accountable for having a true, practice-level workout.
Team is huge with sports, especially at ELHS. Our teammates are our empowerment, and sometimes who we like to compare ourselves to or compete with. Our coaches are our discipline and encouragement to get through practice. Not being with them over these months can be a setback.
It doesn’t have to be a setback though, as long as we develop our own motivation to push and sweat through these new, strenuous times.