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By Donny Shankle

All athletes respond positively to incentive. For the most part, your incentive to show up for training will be to win the competition. However, this is not enough and you deserve more. Raise the stakes during your next training session and put something on the line. Challenge yourself to a new personal record and reward yourself or your teammates if either of you succeed.

I’ve never had a problem with having the discipline to train hard. Yet all of my best training has been when there was a little ancillary incentive in the gym. Coaches know this too. I remember teaching a group of 10 weightlifters in Okinawa. During training Snatches they all kept taking unnecessary steps forward when standing up from the bottom. “These small steps at light weights will turn into big misses at heavier weights”, I said over and over. It wasn’t until I told each of them to give me 1000 yen and told them whoever makes it through the rest of the training session, without taking unneeded steps wins the pot. Once they heard this, they all started to pay closer attention to their feet. By the end of training, they all got their money back. None of them took another unnecessary step forward again.

Money is always a great incentive especially for struggling weightlifters. With all the money spent on food, memberships, gear, etc. a little extra money goes a long way. At California Strength the training sessions were always more exciting when Dave or Glenn put up some money to the winner of a challenge. Things like whoever can increase their PR total the most or whoever can complete 90% of their Snatches for 5 singles with the least amount of misses wins $200. All of our eyes got wider and our concentration sharpened like fighter pilots locking in on their target. We were stoked to find out who was going to be the best weightlifter, strongest man, and fiercest lion that day. Money wasn’t always the reward though. Simple things like having lunch bought for you, a t-shirt sent by a sponsor given to you, being able to drive the Porsche to the city on the weekend, or more intimate promises from your girlfriend can all be incentives to help you improve. Even overlooked things like a pat on the back or a handshake from your coach or training partners you look up to will sometimes be the best incentive you can get. Uncle knew this too. Whenever you made a PR in front of him, he would smile and shake your hand. His handshakes meant more to me than any amount of money.

Exploit the favorable reactions you get from occasionally dropping in some surprise incentive. During your next training session reward yourself or any lifters you teach with something to increase their motivation. You deserve to be rewarded for all the hard work you put in, for adhering to the sports code of conduct, for not cheating your way to the top, and for staying in and resting instead of going out with your friends and partying. These rewards will lead to new PR’s and these PR’s will lead to more rewards. It’s a pleasant circle to find yourself in especially if you have been in a training rut.