Monday, May 7, 2012

If you do what you've always done...

All practice and training should be about results.  Ideally, as martial artists, athletes, or just people who like to hit the gym, we should be focused on setting, meeting, and exceeding our goals.  I've talked about, and other people have talked about, goal setting, how to get there, and methodologies enough that I don't feel the need to beat that particular dead horse any more.
Results are what count in any athletic endeavor.  To that end, we should always be critiquing our practice and training.  I, personally, have become almost obsessive about tracking my workouts.  Less so when I'm doing a martial arts workout, but I do pay attention to the ease with which a new technique comes to me.  Look at what you are doing, and track the results.  Track the number of times you practice a difficult armbar, and pay attention to your mastery of it.  See if that armbar comes naturally to you over time, or if your practice isn't paying of.  If you get to the point that you can slip that armbar on someone as naturally as breathing, then you know that your practice is working.  If, however, you are honestly practicing dilligently but you can never seem to pull that particular technique off, then something may be wrong with your practice.  The same goes for getting to a lifting goal, or a running goal.  If you never seem to quite get there, despite all your hard work, something is off.

The solution is not always to work harder.  If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten.  Another way to put it, in a quote that has been attributed to Albert Einstein, is that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.  Honestly assess why you're not reaching your goals, and what could be done better.  The answer is not simply more of the some.

However, the opposite is also true, which is what I really want to talk about here.  If you're hitting your goals consistently, if that armbar works nine out of the ten times that you try it, then DON'T CHANGE A THING.  Stick with what you are doing until it stops working.  If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten.  So if it ain't broke, why fix it? 

When I was in high school, my basketball coach encouraged us to develop a routine for free throws.  The routine, he said, would help us to get a higher free throw percentage.  It worked, as much by centering the mind as by cementing muscle memory.  When I approach anything, whether it's shooting, martial arts practice, or squatting, I have a routine that I go through in my head.  That routine works, and it helps block out all the extraneous input that I don't need in order to do what I'm about to do.

Routine can be the enemy, as those of us who identify as CrossFitters like to say.  However, for learning, repetition, and general training, routine is also our friend.  Find a routine that works for you, or make one work for you, and don't deviate from that until it stops working.