Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World


by Jim Steel | November 17, 2020

distractions in the gym

One of my favorite things to do when I go out of town is to train at a local gym. Basically, I have to lift weights in the morning wherever I am or I am irritable as hell all day. I feel worthless, and something feels like it's gnawing at the back of my head until I get the training in. After I am done, my mind settles down and all is right with the world, and I can be around the normal citizenry.

I have had some of my best training sessions at out of town places, and today was no exception. I found a gym in Charlotte, North Carolina, and it was superb. It had tons of equipment, a bunch of platforms, strongman stuff, turf, racks, heavy dumbells, the whole shebang. The place had to be 20,000 square feet. Huge. Except for the $20 price tag for my 45-minute session and the clueless bewildered front desk guy, I loved it. Here is a hint for the front desk: when someone walks into your gym, be welcoming. Greet them and act like you give a damn. It’s a business, right?

Distractions lower the quality of a workout. I have seen some crazy stuff at gyms all over the country, but today took the cake. I was doing my workout and I looked over on the turf between sets and there is a guy doing sled walks real slowly, and he is actually looking at his phone while doing sled walks. I did like a triple take when I saw it. I was was trying to make out just what he was looking at while walking. It was actually a phone. I said out loud, “Unreal!” I just couldn’t believe my eyes. I figure that this is one of the signs that the Apocalypse is upon us. I have seen a lot of phone talking and texting in gyms, but this was a whole 'nother level of horseshit.

The way I figure it, you have this little bit of time to train every day and it’s this special time, a sacred time, and people just ruin it with that kind of stuff. I know, I know – to each his own, its his life. He is entitled to do whatever he wants to do, but damn, I just cannot for the life of me understand how people can be like that guy. He should take the time that he wasted looking at who “liked” the picture of his meal from the night before and use it to work his ass off, or just leave and go do something he loves and is passionate about. He was walking as slow as Popcorn Sutton on his way to check one of his stills and looking at his damn phone. He was creeping along, barely moving. Crazy to me.

And then there was a twenty-something girl on a press machine with headphones on, and she was actually talking on the phone while she was sitting there. I thought she was talking to herself, trying to fire herself up, not talking to someone about what time they are meeting for drinks that evening.

Can anything just wait until you are done training? How can you actually have mind blowing experiences in your life if you don't give yourself a chance to really experience things fully? Is it really that important? Is anything? If it is, just train later. Don't ruin the best time of the day and lose the focus that's required to have a great session by getting distracted while you're training.

Isn't there something to focusing on the training deeply and fully? Haven't you ever gotten so immersed in your training session that you forget where you even are, and you go to another place in your head and you just flow with it all? It's magic when that happens, it's a feeling that you will not soon forget, but you cannot get there without total concentration. Distractions prevent this from happening.

What I need to do is open up a big-ass warehouse gym that serves as a rehab center for lost souls who can’t stay away from their phones, way back in the woods of Maryland's Eastern Shore, and fill it with racks and weights and dumbells and some machines and strongman stuff, and only people that are trying to learn to be serious as hell can come there and train. Build a cabin next to it where folks can stay when they come to train where they are totally away from the distractions. Like a Walden's Pond for badasses.

No phones, no wifi allowed in the gym. No masks. No water bottles. Don’t even get me started on water bottles. Are you going to dehydrate so badly in the short time you're in the gym that you have to carry a ten-gallon jug of water with you? All you need is a sink. Stick your head under the faucet (that's what my Dad always said).

People will be going into convulsions without their phones at my country gym, but we will have them in a special kind of rehab. They will rehab with squats and deadlifts until they are so weary and tired that Instagram and Fakebook are only a distant memory after a few days. And after their training, the bourbon and Bud and the pig roasting on the fire out back of the gym will take their minds off of that useless crap – you're not allowed to have your phone when eating pig or drinking bourbon either. That’s a direct forfeiture of your Man Card.

Of course I have a phone, and I am writing this on a laptop – I see no hypocrisy. I don't look at my phone in the gym. The only time I even take it in is when I know the gym is playing rap music. If I hear Eminem one more time, I am gonna hurt myself. So I put on headphones and blast some Down or Superjoint Ritual or Marshall Tucker or Blackfoot and it drowns out that mindless drivel.

Leave your phone in the truck. Give your mind a break and train without distractions for once. You will find that it's a release for you. Or don't come in at all.

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