Friday, 8 July 2011

Mastering Mastery

One of the most common themes I encounter as a coach is an individuals inability to stick at a particular training programme. I call this type of person a "serial switcher". They have tried practically every programme under the sun but never quite seem to get the results that they want. And they typically complain that they get bored easily and need lots of variety. My opinion is that this type of individual is unlikely to achieve what they want until they re-assess their goals and goal setting.

I think that fitness and performance are very simple things - we just need to focus on the elements of fitness that we want to improve on and apply progressive loading to these (make them harder as you get better). This is a principle that applies not only to fitness, but to many other things as well. The problem with fitness and performance is that there is an awful lot of conflicting information out there and this can make it hard to make the correct decisions all of the time. When I think of progression I'm often reminded of a (Greek, I think) tale of a young farmer...

This young farmer had a calf that he picked up every day. At first this was very easy as the calf was so light. But, as the calf grew, the young farmer continued to lift it every day. After a year or so, and with the calf now fully grown, the man was still able to lift it. The gradual increase in size had been small enough to allow the man to get stronger and adapt.

Now this story may or may not be true but it raises some interesting points about progression and the small increments that are sometimes needed to achieve this.

What happens when the increments are too big?

We get injured or we fail. And it is at this point that most people give up.

Life is full of stories about people who have managed to achieve great things with limited means by simply making small incremental changes to a programme, a skill or any other task.

Convict Conditioning - the story of a man who developed a training programme while in prison:

Convict Conditioning: How to Bust Free of All Weakness-Using the Lost Secrets of Supreme Survival Strength

And the Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, talks about a magical 10,000 hour rule to achieve mastery in any skill:

Outliers: The Story of Success

Read more

And Sandbag Fitness - the story of a man with a bag of sand is his garage is my own attempt to achieve a great level of strength and conditioning with nothing but a sandbag.

So, my advice to you is work with what you've got and work hard to get the best possible results irrespective of the options that you have available to you. Sometimes too many options are the problem so stick with the basics and aim for mastery.

Train hard!

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