Let Me Introduce You To Your New Best Friend: Your Target

The best tool for improving your marksmanship is your target. Like your best friend, your target is always there and willing to help. But unlike your best friend, your target will not lie to you. Whatever you are doing wrong or right, your target will provide an immediate and unambiguous record. If you know how to read your target, there is a wealth of knowledge to be had every time you go shooting.

The principle is simple really. Just about every common shooting error presents in a predictable way on your target. If you make one of those common mistakes, your target will show it. Knowing how to identify these mistakes can help you easily self-correct and improve your shooting.

Learning to read (your target)

A variety of individuals and organizations have published charts to assist you in identifying your errors.

Using a chart to identify your errors can be straightforward, but if you haven’t done it before there are a few tricks to make it easier.

Step 1: shoot the target

Until your target has holes, there isn’t much it can do for you. Kind of like if your wife were to ask you if an outfit looks good on her despite the fact that you haven’t seen it. The question gets you nowhere except a trip to the doghouse. You can’t blame your target when you shoot poorly, but she still blames you if she doesn’t like your answer. Go figure.

Step 2: consult the chart

Once you have holes in your target, the fun begins. Now you can compare your target to a chart and identify your shooting errors. How you compare will depend heavily on the kind of chart you are using.

These charts come in two main varieties: shot group examples, and wheels. The shot group example charts tend to show pictures representing example groups. With this kind of chart, find the picture that most closely represents your target.

With the wheel charts, things are a little different. Here you need to compare your group position to an area on the wheel. Once you have found a group or a section on the wheel, you should now have a list of one or more errors you could be making.

Step 3: process of elimination

Once you have your list of errors you can start eliminating potential problems. For example the first chart below indicates that with the pistol groups hitting low left generally can be caused by poor trigger control or poor sight alignment.

In order to identify which of these errors you could be committing, you should start by posting a fresh target and shooting another group. This time focus on not making one of the errors you found. With the above example you might choose sight alignment. Make sure those sights are perfectly aligned for each shot. Did the issue go away? If not then repeat but try focusing on a perfect trigger squeeze.

If you go through all the listed options without fixing your issue, you have one of a few potential problems: you were unable to actually self-correct one of the issues, your chart is incomplete and you are committing another unmentioned error, or you are combining multiple unrelated problems which happen to combine to look like a different problem altogether.

Potential pitfalls

Before you head to the range and expect these charts to be your new savior, remember one thing: these charts are imperfect. The real world isn’t always black and white. It’s not impossible to be doing more than one thing wrong (sometimes they will even cancel each other out, masking the problems altogether).

Sometimes you might find new and exciting ways to screw up too, meaning your mistake might not be on the charts at all. Congratulations, have a cookie.

Charts

Not all charts are created equal. They tend to all have common themes and areas where they overlap, but some charts list errors that others don’t. The amount of information on these charts can differ greatly. Which one you use is up to you. When in doubt keep a collection of various charts – more information is never a bad thing so long as you can parse it.

There are many similarities between disciplines, but for the most part these charts are targeted towards one type of shooting. Below are some charts I have found for analyzing pistol marksmanship. If you are looking for a chart that covers rifle marksmanship errors, check out an Appleseed, they provide some great materials.

1. Target Shooting Canada:

This is a good fundamentals chart of the group examples variety. This is a great place to start, especially if you are just starting out.

2. NEShooters (Awerbuck):

This analysis tool caters more to the tactical/defensive shooting crowd. Personally I take exception to a few of the listed errors: in particular 9 o’clock shooting errors being caused by not resetting the trigger quickly enough. This is a good example of a more complicated wheel type chart presenting all of its information in one diagram.

3. Degrata Tactical:

Another good general fundamentals chart, similar in many ways to the first. While the first one had brief lists of errors, this actually provides advice on correcting technique.

4. Xavier Thoughts:

This chart is probably one of the best because it’s so simple. Unlike the other charts I listed, this one is a very concise and clear wheel type chart, but it does require a bit more knowledge to use.

Analyze your groups regularly to improve

Your target doesn’t lie. If you want to improve your shooting and don’t have the luxury of the oversight of an experienced instructor, the next best option is to look at your target. Let your target do the teaching. With the right materials, you can identify your errors and correct them yourself.

What group analysis resources do you use in your training? Post a comment and share!

Looking Back on the First Year of Indestructible Training

Photocredit: foobean1

One year ago today I posted the very first post here on Indestructible Training. It’s amazing how time flies. It really doesn’t feel like it has been a whole year.

I started writing this blog thinking it would be a good way to start investing more of my time in things I really love doing. I started with a mission: help people get more from their training, encourage people to invest the time to improve themselves, and convince those that don’t train to start. Just like the self-improvement that comes with hard training, there really is never an end for this goal. There will always be people that need a little help or enlightenment with regards to training.

For those that subscribe to the email list or rss, those that follow on twitter and have liked us on facebook:

THANK YOU!

I appreciate your support, and the time you spend reading what I have to say. I’m not some master of the universe or some self-professed expert, I just want to share my thoughts and insights with you, and hopefully expand my own knowledge on training from your comments in return. I appreciate each one of you taking the time to read and contribute to the training conversation here.

I would also like to thank my wife for all the support she has given me, the huge amount of time she has spent turning my unintelligible thoughts into coherent sentences. I would be lost without her.

Looking forward to a new year

With another year on the horizon, I look forward to bringing you more and hopefully better content every week. Hopefully I’ll finish the codex project I mentioned months ago (a fine example of scope creep; I’m going to need to draw a line in the sand and release something before I get old). And I hope to improve in all aspects. As always, I would appreciate any feedback you would like to provide.

Even more so I would appreciate comments on the blog! Tell me I’m wrong, agree with me, I don’t care either way, but I would love to start having more thoughtful discussions with you on the topics of training.

Thanks again for reading, I’m looking forward to sharing and discussing more with you!

What Would You Do With More Time To Train?

I’m not sure about you, but I find myself always wishing I had more time. All through college I thought I would finally find a little more of it when I got into the working world (I did a dual engineering major – perhaps I was a little sadistic). But now that I am there, I relish the memories of my college years when I had that occasional free moment.

Since I am always busy, my personal training is always a limited subset of what I would really like to do. I keep dreaming about what I would do if I got the chance, hoping that somewhere around the corner I’ll find a way to make it happen.

Grappling

One of the biggest weaknesses I know I have in my own skill set is grappling. I have some natural ability, but courses like ECQC tend to point out that I could use some real formal training in this area.

Adding some grappling – say some jujitsu or judo to my training schedule would be nice, but dedicating a minimum of 3-5 more hours a week to a regular commitment just isn’t in the cards with my current schedule.

Edged Weapons

Another area I have been interested in for years is edged weapons training. Knives are a common threat that can be very dangerous, but they are far easier than a gun to carry. I can’t remember the last time I went without a knife, but yesterday I couldn’t carry my gun. Being capable with a bladed weapon makes a lot of sense for this and many other reasons.

Finding formal knife training is a little more challenging than finding a good judo or jujitsu school. I haven’t had the time (noticing a theme?) to even look for knife fighting classes in the area, but I’m willing to bet I’d be spending some time driving to get to one.

More Shooting

If it hasn’t been obvious with the amount of content geared towards firearms training on this blog, I like to shoot. Right now, if I’m lucky, I might get two weekends in a row where I make it to the range. Other times I might get there (like last week) only to find no space on the range to shoot.

If I had a lot of free time, I would definitely invest some of it heading to the range. Pistol training on the range is best if I can make it at least once a week. I also would like to really start working carbine and general rifle skills more often.

Fitness

Right now I’m getting by fitness wise. Two to three days a week I do a short functional body weight strength training workout. I’m noticing small improvements, but spending less than an hour a week on fitness is pretty weak.

If I had more time, I would definitely spend some of it strength training. More time lifting, more body weight training, and some sandbag training to round myself out.

I would also love to spend some time on other areas of fitness like sprinting and some ruck sack marching/hiking. Both would do great things for my overall fitness and help round out some of my weaknesses.

Karate

I have been training in karate for a long time. It has been a passion of mine since childhood. For better or for worse, the past 8 years or so have been spent focused on teaching it. I love to teach, but of course when time is short something has to give, right? As a result my own training suffers.

Developing my own skills has dropped in priority compared to developing my students. I would definitely continue teaching regardless of my schedule, but being able to invest even a few more hours a week in my own training would be huge.

Odds are you are probably like me. You have some time to invest in training, but probably not enough. Day to day life takes a huge amount of our time. I’m always short on time, and I don’t even have kids yet: the ultimate time suck (or so I hear).

If you happen to have come into some free time to train, feel free to steal any or all of my ideas. Let me know what that elusive free time feels like. If not, then write a comment and tell me what you would do if you came into some more time to train. Maybe there is something else I need to add to my list.

4 Factors For Finding the Best Time of Day to Train

Photo credit: remind

Recently I changed up my writing schedule. For the longest time I was waking up in the morning and spending 30 minutes to an hour writing. At the time I thought that was the best way to operate. The time in the morning between waking up and heading to work was otherwise inefficiently utilized, and I figured I was fresher and more focused since I hadn’t been to work yet.

I was wrong. After hearing the last complaint I could possibly bear about my writing from my personal editing staff (my wife amazing wife) I decided to try writing after work when the morning haze is long gone.

The result? A much higher quality of my initial writing. You probably didn’t notice a difference because my wife can turn my crayon drawn scribblings into the work of Da Vinci. For some strange reason, being more awake had a huge impact on the quality of my efforts.

Why am I talking about why I changed when I write? Because like writing, when you train is important.

How do you decide when to train?

The quality of your time training is very closely tied to when you train. Just like being tired and unfocused had a profound negative impact on my ability to write, being tired and unfocused can have a profound negative impact on the value of your training time.

To get the most from your training, strategically setting aside time can have a huge impact on your training performance. Here are a few important points to consider when deciding what time of day to train:

1. When do you have time?

Sometimes the most important factor in deciding when to train is purely when you have time. If you can’t make your own schedule due to a strict policy at work or other obligations, sometimes just having time is all you can afford. Maybe you only have time early in the morning before the kids wake up, or late at night after they are asleep. Maybe a long lunch break works best for you.

Sometimes whenever you have time is the best time to train.

2. When do yo have the energy?

Second to having time, is having energy to train. If you work long hours and get home late, you might have some time, but if you are exhausted will you gain anything? Strength training when you are over-tired is an excellent way to injure yourself and stop your training altogether. If you are too tired to keep your eyes open or focus, will you improve your pistol handling skills? Maximizing gains in all arenas require laser sharp focus. If you can’t provide that, then getting some sleep might be more important.

3. When can you minimize distractions?

Sometimes you might think you have time, but really you don’t. You might not be occupied with anything in particular in the afternoon, but constantly receive phone calls, or have to watch the kids. If you are constantly breaking your focus to deal with another task, you are not in the optimum time slot for training.

Furthermore, for things like dry-fire, this can be extremely dangerous since you will not be constantly focused on your training and keeping your dry-fire area safe. Your best bet is to find time you can dedicate to your training to keep your head in the game.

4. When are resources available?

Aspects of your training require resources you can’t control. Want to go shooting at 3am? Unless you belong to a range that’s open 24/7 this might be a problem. The same goes for using a gym at weird hours.

It may seem obvious, but you will have to schedule aspects of your training that require these types of resources for times when they are available.

But don’t think that just because the range or gym is open, any time will do. Most public indoor ranges are packed on the weekends, especially in the winter. Your local gym probably has peak hours as well. If you can find an off time to train, you make your whole session more efficient since you aren’t waiting for resources to free up.

In a nutshell you need to find a time you can be efficient, but also focused.

If your body or mind isn’t focused on the task at hand, you won’t gain as much as you would if you were extremely focused. Similarly, if you train when you need to spend extra time waiting for equipment or to get on the range, you are wasting time and not being as efficient as possible.

Avoid inefficiency so you can spend more time benefiting from training instead of just “training.”

What time of day do you train and why? Post a comment and let us know.

How Not To Get Shot Training

Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald

Recently a negligent shooting occurred at a training event down in Texas. From what I can gather about the event, students were being brought one by one through a shoot house doing low light training. An assistant instructor was coaching a shooter inside the shoot house when the lead instructor for the class started going through the shoot house without using a light.

When all was said and done, the assistant instructor took two shots to the abdomen and one to the arm. Thankfully he was stabilized on the scene and last I heard was still alive.

This event was definitely a failure safety-wise on a number of accounts. First of all, no-light shooting isn’t really something you do (at least without night-vision or thermals). You are responsible for every round that comes out of your gun, therefore you must know your target and what is beyond. It’s a well known safety rule.

The other failing was in the organization of the event itself. Obviously the operating procedures for running that shoot house were either lacking or were not followed, and as a result someone is in the hospital.

While what happened is a tragedy, and the guy who was instructing that class should suffer the consequences for his irresponsibility, it is also a learning experience. What this class demonstrates is a failing of not only the instructor, but of the students themselves. Sure, the instructor pulled the trigger, but the students have a responsibility for their own safety as well.

Your safety is your responsibility!

No matter what course you take, whether it is a very simple firearms safety or self-defense seminar, or the latest and greatest high-speed, low drag class, you can’t rely on anyone but yourself to keep you safe.

A good instructor will make sure things are safe and implement good safety protocols to prevent or mitigate an accident, but you can never trust them 100%. Second guess everything, because if you don’t you might just take two to the chest.

Do not assume the instructor knows what is best for safety

Last year I took VCAST, an excellent course put on by Southnarc that is geared specifically towards operating in and around vehicles. Craig (Southnarc) is one of the most safety conscious instructors I have had the pleasure to learn from. His safety briefings are second to none. Some of the shooting evolutions he puts his students through are far from textbook. You shoot in confined spaces with classmates in close proximity.

Despite this I have never felt like I was in any serious danger because the exercises were well thought out, and always under his direct observation. That was until I got to VCAST. My group was the second to go through VCAST with Craig, so some of the kinks just hadn’t been worked out.

One of the exercises involved us shooting inside the confines of a vehicle, unbelting, unholstering, and shooting out a side window. As there were 10 students in the class, Craig had us line up 5 vehicles end to end with 2 shooters per car, each getting a turn.

Before we started I noticed something that made me very uneasy. When going from the holster to the shooting position, the muzzle ended up pointing forward such that unless you were in the rear most car you had a chance of being muzzled. Not cool.

Did I suck it up and go along with it? Follow “big boy rules”? Hell no! My safety is important. Being well trained doesn’t help me if I’m dead or crippled. Instead I spoke up and called him out on it. Instead of taking everything Craig says as gospel, I provided a friendly suggestion. Instead of end to end, the cars could be lined up staggered such that you had a clear 90 degree space to point your muzzle. Problem solved. In fact, if you take VCAST, that’s how Craig does it now. If you get a chance, ask him about it – he’ll tell you it was me.

Don’t assume that the instructor knows what’s best safety-wise, we’re all human, and therefore can all make mistakes.

Do not assume your classmates are competent

I probably don’t need to go into much detail here. Every class I have been to has had at least one guy who is so unsafe they probably should not be allowed out of a padded room. Every one. You need to keep alert and aware of your surroundings 100% of the time, from the moment you get near the class until you get well clear of the facility.

You never know what some moron might be playing with in his car or what another student might do. At the Larry Vickers course I took this summer, there was an incident where someone managed to point their muzzle 180 degrees from the main berm towards the parking lot. With two side berms he still managed to find the worst possible direction.

Just because you are in an advanced class doesn’t mean your classmates are even remotely competent. Watch your surroundings, and be ready to be vocal about it. If the situation is minor or it’s after the fact, be polite but firm. But if someone is pointing a muzzle at you or being a doofus, be that jerk you always wanted to be (warning: language). Safety always needs to be the first priority.

Your safety is your responsibility. You almost always sign away your rights to sue when you show up at a class. That means you need to make sure you’re safe. Even the best students and instructors make mistakes and can do stupid unsafe things. Please don’t assume that someone’s credentials will keep you safe. Some people advocate body armor for taking classes, instead I recommend you bring the same attitude and awareness you bring with you every day in the real world. It will keep you far safer.

Do you have an experience from a class to share? Please comment below!

Its Not Over Until The Ref Calls It

Photo Credit: Dan4th

Sometimes in training there is a tendency to get wrapped up in the training environment. Exercises begin and end on someone’s say so or some arbitrary and artificial win condition that does not reflect the real world. This is evident in the occasional tournament fighter who lands what seems like a good blow to only let their guard down and get knocked out.

On the street things are never quite so simple and clear cut. Regardless of the caliber you carry, most people don’t immediately fly backwards or crumple when hit with a pistol round. There are also numerous cases of someone being stabbed repeatedly to continue fighting, only realizing later that they were being stabbed not punched. Nothing is guaranteed to end a fight immediately.

It isn’t over… until it is over

In the real world, how do you determine that the fight is over? Pretty much the same way you might in competition. When the referee shows up and calls it. If you are assaulted and defend yourself, you can’t let your guard down just because you think you solved the problem. That problem might have friends (or you didn’t really solve the problem). In these situations you need to stay vigilant and ready until help arrives or you are far from the situation. In effect when the referee calls the fight.

Avoiding bad habits

Since the fight doesn’t end when you successfully tag your opponent or make a single hit, you need to avoid this behavior in training. Don’t get me wrong, every effort you make should be made like it could end the fight, but don’t get tricked into thinking it will.

When you train for fights in the real world, there are a number of bad habits you should avoid in your training. Here are a few tips for making sure you don’t develop some of these habits through training:

  1. Never play gun or knife tag with ‘one hit kills’.

  2. Don’t drop your guard immediately after scoring a hit (or after the match is called). Wait until you determine everything is safe.

  3. In training exercises have a third party determine when the fight ends (and avoid the forcefields phenomena).

  4. Work after-action routines into any part of your training that you can.

If you make an effort to avoid bad habits you’ll be much better off if you ever need your defensive skills. Good training is about consistency. Train with a consistent and realistic end point.

Consistently practice after-action skills like scanning and assessing your environment.

Remember, don’t get fooled into a false sense of security thinking that your knife or gun might stop the fight immediately and decisively. They theoretically can, but more likely you will be struggling for a while. Don’t let your guard down until the scene is secure. That means either putting distance between you and the scene, or relinquishing the scene to the authorities. The fight isn’t over until the refs call it.

5 Tips For Winterizing Your Training

Photo Credit: christgr

Living in New England means that when winter rolls around a lot of things change. The days get shorter and colder. Snow tires are installed and snow blowers come out of storage. Gloves and hats become a normal part of our wardrobe. Winter has a profound impact on our lives.

Winter also has a profound impact on your defensive posturing. In many cases the pocket guns that are so popular in the summer spend the winter in the safe to make room for full framed service pistols. The wardrobe changes associated with winter allow more concealment options for these larger guns.

Just like you winterize your car, wardrobe, and choice of armament, you must also winterize your training.

Why Winterize

The justifications for winterizing your training can be divided into one of two categories: objectives and methods.

Objectives

One major reason to winterize is that your objectives in training change due to the changing of the season. You might wear different clothes in the winter to deal with the changing environment, you might carry a larger gun because you can now conceal it, and the environment in which you might find yourself in a gunfight can be very different than the rest of the year.

The cold temperatures of the winter months often force you to bring out the heavy winter coat. Concealing and accessing a pistol under a winter coat is much different than under your t-shirt or in your shorts pocket.

The scenarios you face might also change as your environment will not be the same as it was in the summer.

Training

The other major justification for winterizing your training is the training itself. Training outside in the winter is not quite as simple as during the summer. You might seek out the indoor public range in the winter, but you might be far safer braving the elements. If you do train outside in the cold, that doesn’t mean that your fighting environment will change. Personally I live and work primarily indoors. Regardless of the season, I am more likely to encounter a gunfight indoors while wearing a polo shirt and jeans than an outdoor gunfight. Are you likely to be defending your home in full winter gear? Probably not. You might want to consider training for both outside and inside carry in the winter.

Some Tips For Winterizing Your Training

Wear a warm but thin base layer

If you want to continue practicing using your indoor carry methods despite the weather, you want to wear a warm base layer like Under Armour’s compression ColdGear to make sure you can keep warm at the range. Even if you do find yourself preparing for carry under your heavy jacket, I don’t think you’ll mind the extra warmth.

Bring thin gloves

If you are training outside for prolonged periods of time, your hands are bound to get cold. Cold hands don’t move quite so well, so keeping your hands warm and toasty should be a priority. I strongly recommend a pair of warm but thin gloves. If you can still shoot your gun while wearing the gloves, great. Remember though if you don’t often wear gloves like these you should still spend at least part of your time training bare handed. You don’t have the luxury of putting on gloves prior to an attack.

Practice in your winter wardrobe

You should always be training in whatever wardrobe you are currently wearing day to day. It doesn’t make sense to train in your shorts and hawaiian shirt in the middle of the winter, nor your heavy coat in the summer. Even though I personally put priority on preparing for a gunfight indoors during the winter since I spend more time there, I will still put some reps in wearing my winter garb.

Practice with your winter gear

If you change up your carry gun for the winter, then please train with it! Don’t shoot your pocket gun all winter long unless it still resides in your pocket. Train with whatever it is you are carrying.

Be ready for whatever winter might throw at you

In general the winter is not very hospitable. If you are going to shoot in the winter months, I strongly recommend coming to the range prepared. Have first aid supplies handy for cold weather mishaps, bring warm clothes, and be prepared for a snow covered range. Being uncomfortable will not help you stay focused and safe.

Winter Training Is Great…

I love training in the winter because the crowds of the spring and fall disappear. Few people want to brave the cold to train. Take advantage of this time of the year to get some training in without being crowded. Leave the fools to their public ranges and make the most of the season.

A little bit of preparation to winterize your training goes a long way to ensuring you get the most benefit of your time in the winter.

What do you do to winterize your training?

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Driving Your Training With Skills Assessments

Photo Credit: DrJimiGlide

What is the biggest challenge in training? Some might argue that it is determining exactly what to spend your time on. It can be very easy to practice mindlessly, but to get the best results for your time you need to know exactly how to stage your training.

When you undertake your training you are trying to reach some sort of goal. Achieving a singular, simple goal can be easy, just practice until you succeed. Balancing your training to reach a complex set of goals on the other hand is where things get difficult. How do you manage these kinds of goals to achieve them all in a finite set of time?

Drive your training with assessments

One method for balancing your training and determining exactly what you will work on is a progress assessment. The concept is simple: measure your progress against your goals, and re-balance your training plan accordingly.

Sometimes dividing all of your time equally among many activities has the downside of diluting your efforts to the point of ineffectiveness. Redirecting your training based on a set of assessments has the benefit of allowing you to determine exactly what needs the most work so you can direct the most effort to that area.

How do you assess?

The biggest hurdle in driving your training with these assessments is determining exactly what and how to assess.

Some things are easily assessed. Weight lifting provides a simple example. You know exactly how many reps you did, and how much weight you are lifting.

Other areas are not quite so easy.

Shooting is a great example of this. Unlike weight lifting, every training session doesn’t measure progress in itself (unless you have a lot of money and a range in your backyard). Dry-fire is much harder to measure than live fire. You can improvise in dry-fire, but you need expensive equipment to avoid sacrificing the accuracy of your measurement.

Make the most out of each range session and devote at least some of it to measuring your progress by recording hits and times on a consistent course of fire. Personally I use the F.A.S.T. and Dot Torture to measure my own progress.

Some things can be even harder to measure than your ability to hit a target or the amount of weight you can lift. Take for example some fairly subjective things like your fighting techniques. What are you struggling with the most? Kicking, punching, or maybe footwork? There is no completely objective way to measure these skills. If you can’t be objective (or even if you can) you might want to ask a training partner or an instructor on a recurring basis to determine exactly what you need the most work on. If neither is available, consider video recording yourself, it might make self-assessment easier.

Taking your scores home

Once you have a good idea of exactly how you are performing, you need to take those numbers and turn them into an adjustment to your training plan.

Weight lifting naturally lends itself to self-adjustment. If you are working to improve your bench press, you might choose some weight and attempt to perform a number of repetitions. When you can successfully complete that number you increase the weight.

Shooting on the other hand might not be as obvious to adjust. One method to use here is to take your scores from your shooting assessment and compare them against your goal.

Personally I’m trying to improve my F.A.S.T. When I look at my resulting time breakdown, I can see exactly how I performed. Since my goal is for an overall time I compare my component times to what I know are good times. How does my draw, reload, and follow up shots stack up against David Sevigny’s (or some other master class shooter)? I know my reload time is the component furthest from my goal, so I emphasize my training towards correcting that weak spot. When my assessment indicates that my reloads have improved, I will refocus onto my next weakest area.

Why base your training off of assessments?

When you train without a defined purpose, or without clearly measurable goals, you are destined to not hold yourself to a real standard. Measuring your progress allows you to confirm that what you are doing is really working. If you find yourself expending lots of effort for little gain, it might be time to try something different.

Your goal in training should be to improve your ability as a whole, but also to round yourself out. The shooter with the best draw in the world but the worst reloads isn’t the best shooter in the world; instead, the shooter with the best balance of skills will always be better. The same goes for just about anything. If you only train what you want to train, or what you are good at, you won’t really be improving yourself because these big gaps in your overall abilities will remain. Using methods to assess your progress and logically determine what to work on takes your ego out of the loop and allows you to work on what you really need to work on.

How do you assess your skills and determine what to train?

Do You Spend Too Much Time Reading About Training?

Photo Credit: ugaldew

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that there are a lot of people who spend time reading about and researching training. They might spend a lot of time figuring out what to train, or how to train it, but spend very little time actually training. Reading about training and training are two different things… and more of your time should be spent actually training.

Reading about training has its benefits

Reading about training has quite a few benefits. You can spend a lot of time hitting the books and scouring the internet for ideas on training. For example there are a ton of sites targeting MMA fighters and weight lifters talking about topics such as periodization, program building, and various exercises or drills you might want to add to your own training regimen.

When you hit up forums, you can find like-minded individuals and share ideas or compare notes on training programs, ultimately giving you a way to validate your ideas, theories, and training plans.

What’s the problem?

The problem here isn’t that you shouldn’t read about or discuss training regularly, it’s that spending more time talking about training isn’t going to make you stronger, faster, or a better shot. There are plenty of armchair generals (and fighters for that matter) that would rather talk about it than do it. Do you really want to be in that crowd?

Spending too much time reading about training can lead to over-analyzing the problem… analysis paralysis as some people say. Rather than spend all your time planning out how you are going to train, I am going to recommend you follow the advice of General George S. Patton:

A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.

Stop over-analyzing and spend some time actually training!

Finding the golden ratio

Since there is benefit to reading and discussion, you don’t want to toss it completely. Instead you are really looking for that perfect ratio of training to study and planning. How exactly do we find that perfect ratio?

I really don’t know. All I can do is provide you with some concepts to help you narrow in on the perfect ratio for you. Firstly, if you add up all the time you spend reading about your training, you will find that amount of time is probably more than you thought. Ask yourself if you could use a little of that time for additional training. If you dedicate time to reading about training, you should probably not be spending more than 10 – 20% of the time you spend actually training.

If you happen to be fortunate (or unfortunate depending on your perspective), you might have downtime throughout the day when it may be inconvenient to train, but you can easily read and discuss online. Those of you with a long train commute can’t exactly use that time to dry-fire, but pulling up a reader program or a good book is a great way to make use of your time.

If you are recovering from injuries, read away while you are healing. Keeping your mind focused on training despite your body’s pleas to stay off the mats is a great way to minimize the time it takes for you to get back up to speed when you recover.

There is a ton of information out there on training. It would be a travesty not to tap into that knowledge to make your own training more efficient and effective. It would also be a travesty to ignore your training altogether just to think about what you want to do next. Sometimes it’s better to get off your chair and away from the screen and just train.

Do you spend too much time reading instead of training? What ratio of reading to training do you use?

You Don’t Have to Be an IDPA Champion to Benefit from Incremental Improvement

Photo Credit: mai05

Occasionally you might compare yourself with the top competitors and experts within the field in which you train. This can be daunting as their abilities seem far beyond what you have achieved, and getting there seems impossible.

What separates them from you? Incremental improvement.

What can be hard to realize is that the best way to get better at something is simply making the effort. Sometimes the gains measured from a single training session are miniscule. Add a week’s worth of training sessions and you might have something really measurable.

The problem is that every day you go without training your skills fade just a little bit. If you go a whole week without training, you have lost quite a lot, and a whole month? Even more. The longer you go between training sessions, the more rapidly you lose the gains you have made. In order to minimize this degradation of your skills, you must train consistently and often.

Showing up really is half the battle.

Incremental improvement in every session is good; it means you aren’t getting worse.

One common problem I have seen is the desire to train in fewer but longer sessions. If you measure your training sessions in arbitrary chunks of time, each chunk of time you spend training after the first garners less improvement than the one before it. Instead of spending all of your time training on one day, spread it out over the whole week and you increase your capacity to improve.

Since the length of time since your last training session seems to directly correlate with the amount of skill lost, it just makes sense to train more often for shorter amounts of time. Don’t assume that long training sessions will compensate for a sparse schedule. The epitome of this is the weekend warrior who takes several high priced classes in a year. Is he better than the guys who don’t take many classes but train regularly? Absolutely not. He isn’t benefiting from incremental improvement.

Long story short: keep your sessions shorter and more frequent and you should improve faster by avoiding deterioration of your skill set.

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