Control the Controllables

 In Boost your Training, Motivation / Mindset

Control the Controllables

Each day when you walk into the gym, up to the platform, or out to the road for your training session, your results are determined by a collection of factors, some you can control and others you can’t.

Factors you can’t control: the weather. other people. numerical results. how you physically feel.

Factors you CAN control: your preparation. your attitude. your effort level.

For most of us, training brings us joy – at least to some extent, or else we wouldn’t do it – but at the same time, it is a source of stress as well. We all want to see progress on paper or feel it tangibly every time we train. When our numbers increase from the past week, we’re happy. When they stay the same or decrease, we’re frustrated.

The simplicity of this dichotomy can leave us feeling helpless, as if the quality of our training session is up to chance. But it’s not – it’s up to us – as long as we control the controllables. Here are some self-checks to make sure you get the most out your training session as possible on the given day without stressing yourself out in the process:

  1. Prepare as well as you can.

    Go to bed with enough time to get the sleep you need to feel sharp when you toe the line. Eat the foods you know your body craves as fuel for the work ahead. Take care of little details to minimize stress: pack your gym bag with your clothes and your snack for afterward.

  2. Recognize the purpose of the day.

    Before you head in, assess: what is the purpose of this training session? Where does it fit in the map toward my goal? Is it to focus in on one or two major lifts?  Is it to go for a PR?

    Analyze your off days as well. The ‘rest’ part of the training equation is equally crucial, and it’s an active process, not a passive one. Recognize when the purpose of the day is to recover – either in the gym our outside of it – and make decisions accordingly.

  3. Regulate your effort during the session.

    Once you’ve established your purpose for the session, here’s the next question to ask yourself: What effort level must you put forth to accomplish that purpose? Heart rate and RPE (Rate of perceived exertion, on the scale of 1-10 that your coaches use in sessions) are excellent ways to self-monitor. For most training sessions aimed at consistent improvement, you want to be at a 7-8 out of 10 effort for every exercise. For PR attempts, that number will obviously be closer to 10. For active recovery days, it should be closer to a 5 or 6.

  4. Bring your best attitude.

    It’s the most important part. Expect joy and strength from your session. Focus on the rep at hand, and only that rep. Stick to the effort you’ve resolved to put forth. Trust that you’re doing good things for your body and mind. Trust that you’re getting better. Control the controllables, and don’t worry about the rest. If you want to read more about how to bring your best mental game, Coach Bram wrote a great post about this.

  5. Control the controllables…

    …and let go of the rest. Leave the numerical results up to the day, and whatever they are, don’t let them define you. Always look for reasons to explain why you made or missed the mark. Sometimes, controlling the controllables can bring about the results you want. Other days, the things outside of your control may outweigh your efforts and dictate your results – for example, when it’s extremely hot, there’s only so much you can do.

    As long as you walk away knowing you brought the appropriate effort, executed your plan, and brought your best mental game, you can leave the gym no matter the results knowing you did what you came to do: you got better.

Happy Training,


Coach Emily



Recent Posts

Start typing and press Enter to search