There are likely many things that have changed in the way I train myself and others over the years. The one thing that stands out the most in my mind is training by The 80% Rule, or sub-maximally. When Max first introduced the concept of The 80% Rule to me a few years ago I was skeptical. It made sense but took some practice in application. In the fitness world, far too often we are used to doing as many reps as we can in a given set, training to failure or perhaps training a movement for a period of time that is far beyond our capabilities (think 1 minute of push ups). 80% of the time we should be well within our limits. This doesn’t mean working without intensity. It’s just focused and done at a high quality. Arguably that other 20% of the time is for picking your spots, training a little harder and pushing some limits. After all it is progressive resistance that produces results.
As time goes by and I become wiser, two common themes among high level coaches have really stood out to me, especially in the past few months. The first is grace and elegance. At Ambition Athletics we often call it, making it look easy. That strong, smooth, mastery of movement is what we should all be chasing and is constantly referred to in books about practice and by coaches like Wooden and Dan John (see last week’s post). The second theme is basically approaching training, and sport for that matter, in a controlled and non-emotional manner, understanding that every training session/practice is not going to battle or “armageddon” as coach John likes to say. In his book “Off The Floor” David Dellanave gives this sage advice, “You’re not going to war, you’re not waging an epic battle, and you’re certainly not destroying anything. You’re picking something up and setting it down…… You’re calm because you’re about to demonstrate the fact that you can pick the weight up without fanfare.” as well as, “His contention (Matt Perryman), which I fully endorse, is that if you just show up to the gym and lift the weights, day after day, without arousal or excitement, you will literally grow accustomed to being able to do so. The same exact concept applies to competition. When you approach it with this mentality, you realize that competition day is just not all that different from training day. If you are prepared to hit your weights, you will.”
Anyone that knows me well is aware of my affinity for the word stoic and more recently equanimity. Now, I understand that emotion can be important and that some people respond better to that type of situation. In fact, just a few nights ago Red Sox player David Ortiz gave a rousing speech to his teammates to light a fire. But also note that at least one coach was quoted as saying, “He doesn’t say much. But when he does, we all certainly stop what we’re doing and pay attention.” Let’s not forgot this was during game 176 of this season. Clearly Ortiz picks his spots and isn’t fiery at all times. Only when he needs to be, which works best in terms of sustainability. Now, I have less of a problem with this approach in the context of sport but whether you are an athlete preparing for sport or a person working 40 hours a week and providing for your family, your time spent in the gym does not need to be spent waging a ferocious battle. In fact in his book “Wooden on Leadership” coach John Wooden has a chapter entitled Emotion Is Your Enemy. Rest assured this is not about subduing empathy or love but what he calls “intensive effort or positive aggression, with the goal of producing ongoing improvement rather than trying to get everybody excited and fired up about some arbitrary peak in performance.” Finally I can remember from coach Joe Ehrmann’s book “Inside Out Coaching, “… I got my first initial sense that sports could be as much about grace as the arts…… We give sports an elite status, but culturally we diminish them by commoditizing sports and hyping that funny thing called victory. Entertainment, winning, war metaphors, and other malarkey taint sports’ dignity, integrity and grace.”
So, my advice to you, keep calm, make it look easy, enjoy the journey and train on.
– Mike Baltren