Growing up, I always dreamed that we would win our league championship. When I would imagine hitting the game-winning shot or the post-game celebration, the images were intense and vivid. I felt a surge of purpose, which translated to great workouts.
But motivation fades fast, especially when you're training every day. Eventually, everyone gets to the point where your motivation is weak and your workouts become lazy and unfocused. It's easy to have thoughts like “Well I can do this drill tomorrow" or "I'll just shoot around today." I call this feeling Workout Apathy. So how do you keep training hard when workout apathy strikes?
It’s not easy but the best players are able to overcome workout apathy. For this post, I want to focus on one specific tactic that has been the most effective for me: Eliminating Decisions.
Willpower is a finite resource. Think of your willpower as a pool. Every time you are forced to make a decision, it drains some water from your pool. After making decision after decision, your willpower pool is bone dry. As a result, you no longer have the strength to make the decision to continue working out hard.
This is called decision fatigue and it’s a real psychological phenomenon. Here are some of the decisions people often make during basketball workouts that unnecessarily drain your willpower.
What drill should I do next?
How many reps should I perform?
Should I do the drill with both hands?
When should I shoot free throws?
When do I start the next drill?
What drill will best work on my weaknesses?
What drills can I do given my current resources?
Should I get a water break now or later?
How long should I workout for?
This is downright exhausting. And it unnecessarily taxes your mental strength.
While some people’s willpower pools are bigger than others, everyone will run out eventually. The trick is to try and make your pool last as long as it can. Economize each drop of water in that pool. Direct it toward the activities that will benefit your game the most: your effort. It doesn’t make sense to waste your willpower on trying to organize your workout.
So how do you eliminate unnecessary decisions? By having a plan. I don’t mean the plan that most of us have in our mind when we walk in the gym. The typical internal dialogue goes something like this: “I’m gonna warm up, maybe do some ball handling and then get some shots up. ” Does that truly answer any of the questions above? Does it eliminate decision fatigue? Not really. You need a specific, written down plan. In particular your plan has to have a few things:
Specific reps that you will follow exactly.
All the time spent in the gym must be accounted for. No more idle time. Even time spent resting should be accounted for to ensure improving stamina.
Specific skills should be specifically targeted. Are you emphasizing ball handling in traffic or shooting off the dribble? Be smart with the area of the game you are focusing on.
A plan for incorporating free throws. Between each drill? Two at a time?
Before I train, I almost always write down my entire workout to eliminate decision-making. When I write it down, I not only work harder, but I feel a sense of accomplishment. I know that I have achieved what I set out to do.
In the chart below, I've summarized the problem people often face in the left column and the solution in the right column.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinion on workout apathy and decision fatigue. Do you have any personal experience with these problems? What other tools have you used to overcome workout apathy?