Hello, my dear Daily Athletes,
So, as I’m sure you are all aware.
Daily Athlete Life = Reps
Reps in practice, reps in the weight room, and reps when you have to wake up and do it all over again.
This is particularly true for an athlete, but it’s also the case for pretty much anyone trying to master any skill. In order to improve you have to be willing to do the reps, every single day. You need to work hard and you need to practice.
But what does your practice look like?
There is a common mode of thinking for athletes to just work out and train to the point of exhaustion. No thought is given to form, consistency, or mental cognition. It’s a bit of an old-school mentality, but does it work?
The short answer: It works, but it’s not the best way.
So, then what is the best way to train?
It’s called Deliberate Practice.
Deliberate practice essentially refers to a special type of practice that is purposeful and systematic. While regular practice might include mindless repetitions, deliberate practice requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance.
Some of the greatest athletes and performers have become masters of deliberate practice. They have fine-tuned their training to the point that not a single rep is wasted, and as a result, they have complete control over their skills. If they need more power, they know what to do. If their shot is coming up short, they know what to fix. If something is going wrong with their game, they know what area to address at half-time.
But what exactly does that look like? What is the process of deliberate practice?
When you break it down, it’s actually quite simple. A deliberate practicer is able to improve at skills because they learn how to literally chunk their movements.
For example, a deliberate practicing golfer wouldn’t just swing the club over and over hoping that things would get better. No, they would break it down into smaller components. They would look at different techniques for each part of the swing and figure out which movements were best, and then move onto the next chunk. They would repeat this strategy over and over until the perfect swing was formed. This mentality would exist in the movements of each skill but also in the way they saw the game itself.
A deliberate practicer constantly looks at things from a micro perspective with the aim to improve the macro.
Now, of course, one of the greatest challenges of deliberate practice is remaining focused. But beyond that, there is one final piece to the puzzle: feedback. For deliberate practice to work, there needs to be a feedback loop. And this can be done in many ways, but here are the two most effective:
1) Creating an effective means of measurement
In the words of Peter Drucker, “What gets measured gets managed.” This is applicable in business, as well as when it comes to improving at any skill. If you are not creating measurable objectives to evaluate progress, you will never know if you are getting better or worse.
- Shots did you make?
- Serves went in?
- Seconds did it take?
2) Coaching breeds unbiased feedback
In virtually all disciplines, coaches are essential for sustaining deliberate practice. Without a coach, you will have a very hard time measuring progress and performing the task simultaneously. With a coach, they are able to track your progress, find small improvements, and above all, they keep you accountable.
There is nothing comfortable about deliberate practice. It requires sustained effort and extreme focus. But if you are serious about improving and not wasting your time in the gym, this is the best way to go about it.
This week, I challenge you to look for ways to implement deliberate practice into your training. Chunk your movements, find specific ways to measure your improvement, and ask your coaches for help.
Working hard and pushing yourself can be both physically and mentally painful. So why not make the most of that pain? Why not be deliberate about your reps and ensure that each one is moving you in a positive direction.
Some additional resources on deliberate practice:
Talent Code – By Daniel Coyle
Peak: How to Master Almost Anything – By Anders Ericsson
The Art of Learning – By Josh Watzkin