138: Stop Trying to be the Best in Everything and Start Filtering Your Training Programs

We need to imagine ourselves taking a journey that involves taking routes that require us to go around mountains because it’s better to do so rather than to climb to the peak and come down to the other side. It’s also better to go round the mountain than to buy expensive equipment to dig a huge hole into the mountain face to pass through to the other side.

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By now, you should have established your zone of champion by figuring out Where to Focus Your Training to Avoid Stress and Burnout in yesterday’s lesson, it’s time to filter our training programs.

Remember we talked about this in yesterday’s episode 138 that when you try to do well in everything, you’ll end up not doing well in anything.

We can never do everything, or rather we can’t do everything at once and expect to be the best in everything that we do.

Stop Trying to be the Best in Everything and Start Filtering Your Training Programs

Stop Trying to be the Best in Everything and Start Filtering Your Training Programs

It’s just like travelling the world.
Or maybe a better example would be reading books.

You may be a book lover and wish to read many books in a week, but you can never finish reading all the books in the world. It’s just not possible.

Same for in a whatever sport we are in.

Let’s come back to all the famous sports stars we know. Michael Jordan, Novak Djokovic, Tiger Woods, Lionel Messi, all of them have failed and succeeded before.

They never do everything right or managed to learn everything there is in the world. They are not the best in everything.

But they are exceptional in just one thing within their own sport. That’s what I’ve always aimed to do and I hope you are also doing so.

Good news is, it’s not complicated to go through the process. It’s just not going to be a straight line.

I’ve made that mistake once. I used to be so frustrated with myself when things didn’t go the way I expected during training. Getting caught up in that frustration made things worse.

What was I aiming for that made me so angry with myself?
I wanted so much for the process to go in a straight line. When I saw that the situation took a turn for the worse, it gave me the impression that I was not going in the direction I wanted.

But in actual fact, it’s not the case, it’s an illusion. When it comes to making progress, having poor mini results don’t mean we are in the wrong direction. On the flip side, having superb mini results don’t mean we are in the right direction either.

We are just simply taking longer to reach our destination than if we go in a straight line, meaning taking the absolute distance.

We need to imagine ourselves taking a journey that involves taking routes that require us to go around mountains because it’s better to do so rather than to climb to the peak and come down to the other side. It’s also better to go round the mountain than to buy expensive equipment to dig a huge hole into the mountain face to pass through to the other side.

So in today’s topic, we want to get down to details in the exact training series we need to plan to do every week.

We have already done the exercise to find what to focus on during training, for example, for my case in my sport, canoe polo, the one thing I’d like to focus on is to be able to sprint short distances in my fastest possible time with maximum power, yet to be able to last that kind of intensity for half an hour. 30 minutes, that’s all it takes.

That is what I want to focus in my training from start to the end of the season.

But in between that, I need to design and draw out the plan and exact exercises I must do to be able to maintain such performance.

I’m not talking about being faster than another player. I’m talking about being faster than my previous timing and be able to last for 30minutes with higher intensity every time.

So what would be the criteria we should use to filter everything under the sun to narrow down into a few exercises?

The important thing is to narrow a thousand and one exercises to maximum three core exercises, especially if you aren’t able to commit to your sport everyday.

Reason is because, human beings can only internalise and make a certain skill become a habit when they do that one thing 60 times in a day for 21 days.

There is one super useful mental skill anyone can use to enhance this which we will come to in awhile, but generally, this is a very good guide for us athletes.

If we are not doing enough, we will never be making enough use of our potential.

To make matters worse, even with 24 hours a day, many of us find that this is not enough. We never have enough time to complete something. We are always busy with work, family, kids, or even entertainment. That’s fine, we need to spend time with our family and work, but how about something we love doing and want to excel in?

If we want to excel and perform up to our potential and even beyond, then the least we could do is to schedule time do just that few exercises every week to master them first, instead of doing everything that everyone say is good for us.

Filtering the training programs can help us focus and also leave enough time for us to do other things in our lives. We need not do everything, neither do we need to drop everything.

Hope that make sense.

There are several ways I’ve used to decide on what programs to be included in my training plan.

The first actionable step is to ask the right questions.
But what are the right questions?

I’m going to tell you what NOT to ask first:

Don’t ask yourself if you can win or not if you work with this or that program (how many of you ask yourself if you can win or cannot win or if there’s chance to win, that’s a wrong approach).

Understand that mastering sports is a long game, not a one, two years thing, it’s a lifestyle, not an event, it’s not like you compete one time, win it, pack up and go. It’s part of your daily life, what you are part of everyday. You may be working full time or part time and think you are a weekend warrior, if you want to improve, start weekly, then eventually you need to do it daily.

Also, don’t ever ask if this program or training exercise can make you a better athlete or not.

Those who are mindful of their full potential and outshine others based on that one quality they have do not ask if a training program can help them. You will always get something out of anything you take on.

The point here is not whether you can get something out of it, but it’s whether it’s something that you should focus on to empower you to lead you around the mountain instead of take you further away from your goals.

That leads us to the second part of this actionable step which is to ask the right questions.

Question number 1: If there is ONE thing that I cannot do without, what is that ONE thing I should do so that it’s easy for me to do everything else.

The other way to put this is to ask, “What is the most basic thing that I need to do, the most basic exercise I must carry out to train and be really good for me to sustain and grow in that area I was supposed to focus on without doing anything else?”

Or, it could be, “if there is only time for one exercise, which would that be?”

For example, back to my case in canoe polo, I think of what do I want to achieve at the end of the day?

My goal is to train up on my fitness, the most basic thing that’s within my scope to play a decent game to my potential.

That means, if there are 3 exercises I will be incorporating into my weekly plan, I must reserve 33 percent of the time I have to do sprint trainings, to put in that deliberate practice to push myself to last 30 minutes of continuous stop and do sprints with everything I’ve got.

And one ninja tip here, in order to sustain this phase, I must deliberately or consciously remind myself to keep breathing deeply without holding my breath while executing the steps.

Trust me, I tend to hold my breath while sprinting and that leads to a lot of lactic acid building up in my muscles and that in turn slows me down.

The next question to ask when it comes to selecting the next set of exercise is this:
Is this particular exercise relevant or realistically applicable to my game?

I used to be in the badminton team ages ago, that was between year 1990 to year 2000. We tend to do many drills in one session. Most drills make us too tired to play a decent game at the end of the day. However, many of the drills were instructed by the coach not because they were necessarily applicable to the game, but more so as a way to punish us for our previous poor performance.

If we needed to improve a certain skill to prepare for the next game, then so be it, come up with an exercise to improve that skill, but the exercise shouldn’t be created for the wrong reasons. I used to advocate punishments in my training sessions when I was coaching a school team. Those were the days when I thought it could teach the kids that they could do better. But turned out that they didn’t learn anything from the punishment and they didn’t even understand what they did wrong.

As a coach, I was there to help guide them to teach them how to learn from their mistakes and make decisions for themselves, rather then to make them feel the pain and not learn anything in between.

Some exercises were also implemented not because they were relevant, but because they have been used for a long time in the sport that it seems weird or different not to use it. People may think, “it must have been useful and that’s why people have been using it for a long time?” Is it right to think like this? Not quite so.

I think it needs to be analysed to cater more towards how your body can take it as well as based on your strengths and weaknesses, rather than based on tradition.

There are also athletes who base their training around the “in case” mentality. They train up certain skills in case they need such skills when the time comes. In this scenario, I would suggest only when you have the bandwidth for that. Once your basic core requirement, as we’ve talked about earlier on the ONE thing to do, has been met, with time reserved for it to be worked on and be accomplished, then by all means go ahead with the new skills because by then you are fundamentally well-equipped to already use them.

Next comes the one best mental skill you should leverage on in order to make your training progress as smooth as possible.

The first one is self-imagery or visualisation.

You may or may not have already known this, but even with many athletes swearing by visualisation, there are also many athletes who haven’t got to the point of using it to their advantage.

I used the word leverage, because it was a big booster for me for many years.

So how did I use it to my advantage?
I must say that I use this process everyday sub-consciously. It used to be quite a deliberate process, but after a few years, it became quite natural to me.

Here’s the process:
Every time before leaving home to the training ground, I would always run through all my training details in my head, really acting them out as detailed as I could. I didn’t do this with my eyes closed all the time. There were times I did so while seeping tea or waiting for the bus. I virtually visualised wherever I was before training started.

The trick is how the mind works. The mind doesn’t know what’s real or not. Whatever that’s pictured in our mind will send the signal to our body that it’s happening. There is science behind this.

We know it’s not happening because our eyes are in actual fact looking at something else. But that’s our conscious mind working.

The sub-conscious mind, with the same reason for what it’s called, only looks at what it sees. It’s vision need not come from our eyes, but it can come from our thoughts.

That also means, if we want to perform a certain drill or exercise without taking longer than we should, or if there’s a goal we are aiming to reach during that exercise, visualising the process of ourselves getting there will help.

So what I did is not just visualise myself at the end of training, but I visualised the exact steps I was supposed to actually take stage by stage, level by level.

It wasn’t all magic though. There’s never anything magical when it comes to doing better in anything in the world.

Even visualisation can be hard work because there is deliberate effort involved. It’s not just closing your eyes and wondering off, nor is it just thinking about training.

Going through the steps in training has to fight distractions and other thoughts flying into the mind.

It’s a bit like meditation, but meditation is different as in the process allows thoughts to fly in and let it go out and so on.

Visualisation has been the key to allow me to stick with my training steps and move on to level up from there.

In other words, in my opinion, no matter how good my coach or how great his program can be for me, without incorporating visualisation into my training programs, I would have taken longer to develop from there. That may also mean there could have been more frustration and less learning opportunity for me.

Hope this helps, if not, do leave your comments in the show notes at starplayeracademy.com/138, sign up for my newsletter while you’re there.

That’s all for today’s episode.
I want to thank you all for joining me today. Hope that my experience will help you in your training process especially when it comes down to being more focus to what you need to do versus what you see others do.

With that you have a great day and we’ll chat again soon.

Big thanks to Dexter Britain for composing such wonderful inspiring music: The Time to Run

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