Living Without A Thermostat

One of the challenges of this lifestyle is taking time off, or scheduling deload weeks so we avoid injuries. Burnout isn’t really an issue since we’re doing what we love. Injuries however, injuries are a constant threat.

 

I’m going to shoot you straight, I don’t really know how to take it easy or take time off. I’ve never been able to to do it properly. Sometimes though, the injury is so great that we don’t have a choice. We have to stay off the mat, out of the ring, weight-room, or away from the range. Most of us are guilty of being all in or all out. We can’t deal with halfway anything. Injured to the degree that we can’t train usually means we’re all out. We don’t go to the gym because it’s too frustrating to see everyone else rolling, working their standup, pushing their numbers up in the weight-room, or improving their times on conditioning work. We’re happy they are progressing, yet not so happy we’re stagnating while we wait for this injury to heal.

 

This a really dangerous time for us. We run the risk of getting out of the habit of doing all the things we do. Six to eight weeks away from the gym is enough time for other habits to sneak in, and take over. If we’re not careful we’ll soon be spending our nights on the couch, watching TV, drinking and eating garbage, and undermining all of our hard work. We can make excuses, we can’t train because we’re hurt. It’s frustrating to sit on the sidelines, etc., etc…

 

Or we can be that team member that still comes to class to watch, take notes, mentally keeping ourselves active in the game. When we help where we can around the gym it goes a long way towards building team, as well as maintaining our habit of driving to the gym several days or nights a week. We’re helping our team, and our team is helping us by keeping us mentally engaged.  Yes, it’s still frustrating because it’s not the same as being out there doing what we love. However, climbing back on that horse is much easier when we haven’t forgotten how to get to the barn.

Total Mastery

As a student of high performance I’ve noticed something about every high performer I’ve been fortunate to meet; they know the tools of their trade inside, and out, upside, and down. What does that mean you say? Is that some strange Maryland eastern shore saying? It simply means there is nothing they don’t know about the tools of their trade.

Everyone from from top competitive shooters to graffiti artists. Everyone demonstrates the same trait. They know their tools. Completely. Watch Super Dave Harrington teach a lesson on dry fire, while performing every possible manipulation of the pistol all while never stopping the lecture. He knows the tools so well it’s as natural to him as breathing.

Watch this clip of Flea, bass player in the band Red Hot Chili Peppers. Even if you’re not a musician, from a student of higher performance perspective there are some really cool lessons here. At the 1:50 mark we see Flea demonstrate effortless mastery of his instrument. We’re watching years of dedicated effort manifested by mastery of the instrument.

If we want to be high performers we accept, and embrace the effort it will take to master the tools of our endeavor. To know those tools, to include ourselves in the equation, to the degree that there is nothing we don’t know about those tools. The external tool becomes an extension of our will. At that point it is us.

Staying Mentally Healthy

In this pursuit we get the opportunity to stress ourselves daily, even hourly. The assault on our mind and body is relentless, even if it is largely self-imposed. We measure a good practice session by how tired we are or how banged up we feel. We can pretend there is some scientific formula but we all know, sometimes the only way we are happy with a practice session is if we are exhausted.

 

Staying physically healthy is a pretty simple equation. Eat nutrient dense food, drink enough water, and engage in recovery techniques.

 

How do we stay mentally healthy? How do we stay motivated, engaged, and striving to keep that edge? Time with friends, and family is an obvious answer. Shutting off the TV, social media, and the constant stream of negativity the masses seem to clamor for, and are addicted to. I had the opportunity to bounce from social media for a few months. It was nice. I missed seeing pictures of my friends, or reading of their escapades but I didn’t miss the constant barrage of negativity. I joined several business groups where I was surrounded by positive, performance focused, business minded folks. I noticed a change in my habits and behaviors. Conversations that weren’t centered around performance, reaching goals, ideas, concepts, thoughts, and getting things done quickly became of no interest. It seemed like everyone I talked to, or spent time around energized me.

 

I slowly began to realize something. I was mentally recovering faster than ever. Mental hits knocked me down, but I was bouncing back faster than ever. I lost the desire to wallow. To milk every bit of negativity from every situation. To see gloom and doom. That side of me was diminished. Strangely, I was also experiencing faster physical recovery than any previous time. We all know the mental and physical aspects of ourselves are intwined but I think sometimes we forget just how much one affects the other.

 

When it comes to diet, strength, conditioning or technique work we know it’s as simple as asking ourselves; will this take me closer to my goals of enhanced or improved performance. If the answer is yes, then we do it. If the answer is no, then we abstain. It’s time we actively apply this to the mental side. Will this thought, conversation, or what I’m about to read/watch/listen to take me closer to my goals of improved performance? If yes the carry on. If the answer is no, then stop immediately.

 

We have to start guarding our mental health as vigorously as we do our physical health. Our body is a holistic creature, the mental and physical aspects are so completely linked there is no way we can engage in behavior that damages or at least limits the performance of one without it affecting the other.

 

Endure a Little More

There is simply no substitute for time on the mat, range, or in the weight room. One of my coaches told me that cranking the oven up to 800 degrees doesn’t reduce the baking time, it just burns the cake. There’s a lot of truth in those words. I can’t count the times I tried to go too far too fast, and paid the price in the form of injuries, frustration, and sometimes lost training time.

 

While there certainly are more efficient ways to train we have to fight the urge to succumb to the get rich quick mentality. There is no easy way. There is no shortcut. There is only consistent effort over time.

 

Sometimes it’s consistent, painful, bone-crushing exhaustion level effort over a longer period of time than we think it should take.

 

As one approaches a level of mastery it becomes even more difficult to measure improvements. The first few years of strength training it’s normal to put 200 pounds on our squat or deadlift, after 10 years of training a 200 pound increase on the squat or deadlift would be miraculous. There are a few things we can do at this point. We can radically change our approach, maybe switch to a new coach, or a new training strategy. Sometimes that works for a brief time. However, sometimes the best strategy is to keep doing what got us here while trusting the process. Focusing on small improvements, even as small as a 1% over a 4-6 week training cycle, is an improvement. Put enough of those together, and we end up with a 10-15% increase over the course of a macro cycle.

 

Regardless of your stage in this game know this, there will come a time where you will simply have to choose to endure a little more. There is no way around it, you will want to quit, you will be frustrated. You will see friends, and training partners that started at the same time as you or even after you surpass you. Keep on keeping on. There really is nothing to it but to do it.

 

IMG_6230As my coach Chris Haueter says, “It’s not who’s good, it’s who’s left… it’s hours on the mat… and if you put in that time, natural athlete or not, you practice the art, you’ll be a black belt. You’ll be somewhere in ten years… imagine someplace ten years from now I’m gonna be somewhere why not be a black belt too? You just can’t quit.”

 

The Power of Three

When developing or refining skill the challenge is to focus our efforts. We tend to get caught up in trying to work on too many things at once. That is a fast track to frustration. This endeavor can be physically, and mentally taxing enough without additional obstacles of our own design.

 

Covering all the bases is a never-ending challenge. However, it’s not impossible. The trick is to keep the focus to three or less performance points each practice session.  Whether it is strength training, conditioning work, boxing, or vehicle operations we can’t focus on everything every time. There is no mythical power of three however, there is a power in focused effort. Before each practice session take a few moments to write down 1-3 performance points or cues that you will focus on during the practice session. Other things might come up however, stay the course. Remember the focus of this practice session, and don’t waver. If you don’t know each performance point for the various disciplines don’t worry, we’ll cover that ground in future blog, and YouTube posts. For now, here is an example of 3 performance points to focus on in our next pistol practice session.

 

Push Me Pull You

During my first trip to The Tactical Shooting Academy to train in the Fist-Fire shooting system with D.R. Middlebrooks the subject of running a long gun came up. I had always been trained to pull the long gun tightly back into my firing side shoulder to keep the gun from lifting or moving excessively under recoil. This works fairly well but in a world of good, better, best? I’m not going to rest, I’m going to keep looking for the best way. By the time I went to D.R.’s for the first time my agency had already spent quite a bit of money sending me to various schools to take my long gun skills further than I ever thought possible. I had also paid my own way to every long gun training course I could afford. Even though I had learned several approaches to running a long gun, the best way for me at that point was still to simply pull the long gun back into my shoulder aka “the pocket” as hard as I could.

 

D.R. Middlebrooks recommended I try a method espoused by Rob Haught which is based in a push-pull approach to mounting the shotgun. Essentially D.R. instructed me to mount the shotgun, (I was using a Remington 870), directly under my dominant eye to economize movement. By bringing the shotgun up to my dominant eye rather than moving  my head to meet a rising shotgun I am able to mount the shotgun in a consistent manner every time. Once I make my cheekweld I pull back with my firing side arm while pulling forward with my support side arm. This creates a tension between the arms that absorbs practically all the recoil. I was immediately impressed, and became a fan of this approach to mounting a shotgun, as well as any long gun.

 

A few performance points I’d like to share with you. Don’t apply the isometric tension until the long gun is mounted, and you’re prepared to press the trigger. The tension will slow your mount speed. Once you do mount the long gun, and are ready to apply the isometric tension do so with gusto. Some folks suggest various percentages regarding the amount of tension to apply between the hands. I prefer to go for 100% tension from each hand. I pull back as hard a I can while pulling forward as hard as I can. I’m trying to pull the gun apart. Isometric holding exercises where I mount the long gun while applying as much isometric tension as possible, and then hold it for one minute followed by a two minute rest period have been extremely valuable in training myself to learn this method.  I do five holds for a total of five minutes work, ten minutes rest. When in doubt grip a little harder, push-pull a little harder.

 

Give it a try, and let me know what you think. I’ll post some dry, and live fire demonstrations of my approach to this method in the near future.

What is First?

First Things First by Stephen Covey is a great book on time management. It takes us deeper into Covey’s system for managing our most valuable asset; time. During a seminar on time management one of the presenters said something that pertains to working towards our goals and objectives that stuck with me. He said; the first thing you do upon waking is the first thing. If the first thing I do upon waking isn’t taking me towards my goals, then I need to think about my goals, and what’s really important to me.

 

If one of my goals is to improve my Jiujitsu escapes from bottom then the first thing I should be doing upon waking is something that takes me closer to this goal. Get out of bed, and get the coffee brewing. While I’m waiting for my coffee I can do hip escapes/shrimps,  bridges/upas, sit-outs or any number of solo drills that prime my mind and body to think all day about my goal of improving my Jiujitsu.

 

This also applies to any other goal in the multidisciplinary practice. If we want to improve our pistol skills then the first thing I should do is dry practice. If I want to level up my standup game then I should be shadowboxing as soon as I’m awake enough to move around. The mental act of starting to work on reaching my goal as soon as I’m awake is important. It sets the tone and pace for the day. Coach Cecil Burch of Immediate Action Combatives has spoken and written quite often about using every available minute for our daily practice as we are all on a time crunch. Those moments while waiting for our coffee to brew, or the shower water to regulate is a few more minutes or reps.  It’s a simple way to get into the mental state of using every available moment when we start our day working on our goal.

 

As I recall the presentation on time management, and reaching goals I think about how many times I have started my day looking at what others are doing. I surf social media to see what my friends, and family are doing, check emails, or my RSS feed. While these things are all interesting, there is a good chance none of these things are helping me reach my goals. I have effectively told myself what others are doing is more important than my goals, and what I want to do. It might sound self serving yet, I think it’s okay to focus on ourselves and our goals for the first few moments of the day.

 

Think about your goals. Think about how you start your day. If those two things aren’t congruent maybe it’s time to put yourself and your goals first, at least for the first part of your day. Try it for a few weeks, and see if it doesn’t move you closer to reaching your goals.