I’ve been consciously applying the concept of practice in my life recently and it’s giving me great results.

I first started thinking more mindfully about practice from doing GMB Elements. GMB workouts are built around a 5P methodology — Prepare, Practice, Play, Push and Ponder.

Here’s how GMB describes ‘Practice’:

The practice portion of the session is, arguably, the most important–and most neglected in most other training programs. As with any new skill, focused, mindful practice is essential for learning the physical skills you are focusing on.

Then, a few months ago, I listened to Ben Bergeron explain the difference between practice, training and competing. He does it very succinctly (30 secs). Check it out, it’s brilliant.

Do you notice what the above have in common?

They both categorise the type of training you’re doing at any particular time. When you consciously do that, it changes everything — from how you approach the session, what you do and the results you expect.

Here’s an example. Lately I’ve been trying to get the hang of double unders. A few weeks ago I was getting super frustrated. I would go into a session, pick up a rope and go straight to trying to do several. I didn’t get better. In fact, I felt like I was getting worse! I got pretty worked up about it. I was treating it like a training session (not a practice session).

Then I got some good advice. Slow down. Practice daily, but for no more than 10 mins. Be more mindful of technique. Try and get a little bit better each session. And if I don’t get better in a particular session, don’t beat myself up about it. Try again the next day, it’ll come.

I watched every youtube tutorial on double unders I could. I studied the commonalities between the advice. I started each session with only one of them in my mind. I was slow and calm in the sessions. I filmed myself several times each session, looking at that one thing and then trying to do it a bit better next time.

Wow, what a difference it’s made! I’ve made more progress in the last couple of weeks, than the last 6 months. I can now consistently skip singles, and then throw in two double unders every 3 or 4 singles. My form is fairly consistent as I transition between singles and doubles too.

I’m still some way from being able to do double unders in a proper training session, but I’m on my way. Being able to string 5 or so together consistently feels around the corner.

I talk about training quite a lot. That’s because there are so many parallels between training and life in general. Chasing Excellence by Ben Bergeron is one of my favorite books. Most of the book is about how his athletes navigated and won the Crossfit Games. It’s one of the best books on mindset I’ve ever read. It’s applicable to anyone.

The takeaway?

If you’re trying to get better at something, try and consciously decide if you’re practicing, training or competing.

If you’re practicing, you need to slow down. You’re usually better off focusing on improving one part of what you’re doing and being very mindful of that. Try and get someone who is where you want to be, to observe and give you feedback.

If you have a good baseline, then there will be times when you want to push harder and faster (training). But, there should still be enough mindfulness to maintain a baseline of technique, whilst pushing for optimisation.

If you have an excellent baseline, now and again you might decide to compete. You’re going to put everything into serving up your absolute best work at that moment. You’re trying to win.

The above applies to learning the piano, a new language or any new skill — just as much as it does to fitness.

Most of us would do better to slow down and spend more time practicing.

If you take just one thing from this article — be conscious of what type of thing you’re doing. It’s half the battle and it changes everything.

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