There are many variations, but most distractions boil down to a few basic categories:
- Equipment problems
- Other people
Equipment problems are physical obstacles that you can't ignore. Your favorite chest-press machine may have an "OUT OF ORDER!"- sign on it, one of the only two 120-pound dumbbells in the gym may be missing, a team of powerlifters has swiped every 45-pound plate around for their deadlifts ... You get the idea. These are the toughest obstacles to overcome since you have to improvise instead of sticking to your carefully planned course of action. But it can be done, as we'll see later on.
Other people are more of an annoyance. This could be Mr. Hotshot and his three buddies has decided to monopolize a key machine for 30 minutes straight, The Angelina Jolie-clone I mentioned earlier or the gym serial yakker who latches on to you and babbles until your ears fall off or you plug the hole with a dumbbell, whichever comes first.
Last but not least, it's good old poor planning on your part. This can be failure to eat a good pre-workout meal (getting all weak and hungry halfway through the workout seldom helps) or something as simple as forgetting to bring your sweat-towel and having to run back and forth getting paper towels to wipe off the equipment after yourself.
The equipment issue is best solved by always having a contingency plan. If a specific machine is out of order, you have an interchangeable, alternate exercise you can throw in without missing a beat. Just make a note in your training log and move on. That applies to pretty much anything; keep a backup for each exercise, so that you won't have to stop and think: "S--t, now what do I do?" That's one of the worst derailers of training focus there is.
Problems caused by other people require a more flexible approach. The contingency approach works for skipping or waiting out Mr. Hotshot and his crew, but Angelina is tougher. Try timing your workouts to minimize the number of attractive females around - early mornings are typically popular, while you usually find a lot less hot stuff at 7 p.m. and thereafter. A friend once suggested imagining she is your sister, which should help take the edge off things for most normal guys.
This imaginary-sibling approach doesn't work too well with the serial yakker, however, since the urge to dish out a vigorous wedgie might become overwhelming. The solution to yakkers is to bring your radio or portable CD-player and keep the music blasting through the entire workout. This also shields your sensitive ears from horrors such as Backstreet Boys and Bryan Adams that moronic gym managers sometimes subject their clientele to. If even that fails to dissuade the yakker, that wedgie remains a last resort.
So what about the problems caused by your own darn self? Well, if you're the type who don't learn from your own mistakes, get a PDA that will do the job for you. If you have a workout planned for 6 p.m, set the PDA to beep at 4:30 to remind you that you should eat a bowl of rice and some chicken breasts. Then have another, recurring alarm go off at 5:30 (when you should be getting ready to head out the door) to remind you to run through the checklist of gear.
- Get a reliable training partner. The keyword is "reliable" -- you need someone who will be there, every workout, with a positive, can-do attitude.
- Focus on the pump, and maintain the pump throughout. This will help keep your mind off the babes and in your muscles.
- Keep your eyes on the ground and avoid eye contact with anyone, from the moment you start until you finish.
- The last trick, which has proved devastatingly effective by a few people I've unfortunately seen, is to not bathe for two weeks. Machines magically frees up by them merely approaching, and not even the most hardcore yakkers ever accosted these people. But if you have so much trouble focusing you're considering this alternative, I recommend getting a home gym instead.