6 Signs Your Aren’t Maximizing Your Training Effectiveness

Does your training gear still look brand new?

When you train your goal should always be to train effectively. If every training session doesn’t get you closer to your goals, then you are really just wasting time, money, and your energy. Sometimes it can be difficult to really know how effective you are in your training. Below you will find a list of warning signs that suggest your training may be ineffective. How many of these apply to you?

The data in your training log shows no progress

In your training log or journal, you should always be seeing a trend of progress. Your shooting splits should be decreasing over time. Your max reps or weights should be going up, and scores in general should improve.

When you look at your log, you should be able to see this progress. Maybe not on the scale of each session or even each week, but over several months you should be getting better. If you are constantly gaining and losing again, you might want to consider redesigning your program to improve your consistency.

You don’t have a log

You do have a log right?

Not everyone believes in tracking progress, but I do. When you do see trends of growth and improvement you have the record of who, what, when, why, and how. Without it you can’t learn from your successes or your mistakes. And those long term trends are hard to see without it.

Furthermore, seeing improvement is a great motivator.

You haven’t checked your progress against your goals

Do you periodically check the data in your log against the goals you set at the beginning of the year?

If not you are missing out on an opportunity to directly measure how effective you are being. Having good, measurable goals means that you can easily see just how well you stack up to your plan.

Your equipment still looks shiny and new

If your equipment isn’t wearing out at least a little, or it is collecting dust, you probably aren’t training often or hard enough.

As an example the Glock 17 I use for most of my dry-fire and live fire training has some smooth shiny spots where the finish is starting to rub off, and the inside of the magwell is dinged up from thousands of repetitions of reloads. If the gun still looked new, you would probably say I wasn’t using it.

The same goes for any other training gear you have. Ever see an experienced black belt’s belt? The guys who train the hardest always have tattered belts after years of training… and it’s not from the washing machine…

You haven’t adjusted your plan

When you set out to achieve your goals, you make a training plan. Certain days get set aside for certain things and you plan out how you will achieve your goals.

As the saying goes: no plan survives contact with the enemy.

As you compare your results with your goals, you should be adjusting your plan. Some areas might not be getting the attention they need while other areas might be showing more progress and you can afford to redirect those efforts to your weak spots.

If you aren’t adjusting your plan regularly, you aren’t thinking critically about your training, and therefore are not maximizing your effectiveness.

Your plan hasn’t stayed the same for longer than a week

On the other hand, changing your plan too often can be your downfall. If you don’t give your plan at least a few weeks or months to prove itself, you are doing yourself a disservice.

No plan can really prove its effectiveness or lack thereof in a few days. Stay the course long enough to see if it works. Only when it has been given enough time to demonstrate how effective it is should you change your plan.

These are just a few signs you can watch for in your own training. Any of these can be an indicator that you aren’t maximizing your effectiveness in your training.

Do any of these warning signs sound familiar? Are there any other warning signs I missed? Post in the comments below.

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5 Ways to Stay Motivated

Photo Credit: Jeremy Botter

What is the hardest part of training? I adamantly believe that it is staying motivated. Practicing and learning are relatively easy, but convincing yourself day after day to keep training, to do one more rep and push yourself a little further can be hard to do.

How many times have you started getting ready to go to the gym and decided not to? Or found some sort of excuse why you couldn’t dry fire today? Excuses are easy to find, especially when motivation is at its lowest.

I don’t have all the answers and can fall into many of these traps myself, but here are some tricks that have helped me to keep motivated and trudging on.

Find ways to make measurable progress (if only small)

Progress is the best motivator in the world. If you are able to do 10 pushups today and 11 pushups tomorrow, you have evidence that you are making progress. When you see progress you see the fruits of your labor and it makes any of the pain and suffering worth it.

When you lose sight of progress, or it becomes too small to measure day to day or week to week, you are destined to lose motivation. When you aren’t succeeding every day why keep going?

The best way to keep motivated is to keep making progress.

If you are working on a skill or exercise that requires significant time and dedication to reach the next milestone, this can be difficult to see. Make your progress more obvious by finding intermediate milestones.

Maybe this means adding smaller amounts of weight to a weight routine, adding repetitions or even decreasing the length of time for your workout. With shooting skills, finding measurable progress might require you to start using calipers to measure your groups or investing in a shot timer.

If you see progress you will be less likely to tell yourself to skip training.

Set achievable goals

Connected to the idea of measurable progress is achievable goals. You may have big goals set that are very difficult to achieve. Rather than struggle for potentially years to achieve these goals, set some intermediate goals that you know you can achieve.

If you set a goal to become rated Master in IDPA for example, perhaps setting your sights on Expert or Sharpshooter are more easily attainable for you. Strive for the reachable goals so you get an opportunity to pat yourself on the back for achieving your goal.

Leave yourself reminders

Sometimes motivation is about remembering why you want to train. Or even that you should train.

A great way to stay motivated is to find ways not to forget the reasons you want to train. Place a sticky note on your bathroom mirror. Maybe all it says is go train. Or it could have your goals written on it. Either way, seeing your goals every day should inspire you to keep training, even when you don’t feel like it.

Train with others

Another method for staying motivated is to train with others. When you are weak, your friends will pick you back up. When you are strong you pick your friends back up.

Even better is the desire not to show weakness in front of your friends. We all perform better with an audience if for no other reason than we are a competitive species. You want to avoid losing motivation? Form a training group.

Don’t allow yourself to give up

Tricks can help you to stay motivated, but sometimes it is just about willpower. Work on building the mindset to keep training and not to give in to the temptation of quitting or taking it easy. Treat the desire to quit as the inspiration not to.

You want to quit, therefore you can’t.

It should be your goal to build that never quitting attitude required to succeed (and reach your other goals).

Motivation is difficult to find at times. You might have had a rough day at work, or you might be tired or sore from another training session. You might feel a little sick or have allergies, or maybe the AC is broken.

At times like these, tell yourself to suck it up and get back to training. Use the tricks if you need them and tell yourself not to give in.

Train Like It’s Your Last Day To Train

Photo Credit: U.S. Army

Every day of training tends to be a little different. Sometimes we work on precise skills, other times we work on strength or other physically demanding training. Some of these days are easy, and others are not quite so easy.

One common thread ties all of these training sessions together. You should be training like it is your last day to train. There is only now.

Training should never be lackadaisical. Every time you train, it is potentially your last opportunity to practice before the unthinkable happens. Make every session count.

Since every session might be your last, you have two responsibilities to yourself when you train:

Firstly, don’t waste a single opportunity for improvement. Don’t just go through the motions, instead put 100% of your concentration and focus into every repetition you practice. If you can only set aside a limited amount of time to train, then make every second count. Wasting time is fine when you are doing something of limited importance – training to defend yourself does not fall in that category.

Secondly, don’t let fatigue or discomfort slow you down or stop you. Whenever you hit that wall of fatigue or maybe even pain, take this an opportunity to build mental toughness. No one ever got anywhere by taking it easy in life. Work through the discomfort and fatigue and keep pushing on.

When it really matters, you won’t have the opportunity to stop for a breather or to go half as hard. Not only should every training session be like the last you’ll ever have, but every single repetition should be like the last. There is only now.

When it gets tough, dig deep and keep going. You have only two options when the chips are down: succeed or fail. Don’t take the second option.

Training Like it’s 1775

Photo by Muffet.

One of the most important days in American history (if not THE most important day) was April 19th 1775. Tomorrow is the 237th anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord.

Why is this date so important? To me it’s important because it was the turning point, the spark that set things in motion to give us the nation we have today. A bunch of farmers and shop keepers faced the impossible and succeeded in defeating a professional army that came to take their arms. These dedicated individuals risked it all and made many sacrifices so that today we have our rights (relatively) unmolested.

There is no other country in the world where civilians can own firearms and use them the way they can here. Where else in the world can you find civilians learning to shoot on military bases from other civilians, or training with the tactical gear that is so ubiquitous today? Can you name another country where that happens? If you can, I’m sure you can count all of them on one hand.

I would like to point out that those farmers from 1775 secured their rights using skills that they trained diligently. Sure the state of the art was definitely much different. You wouldn’t see anyone in those days practicing transitions to sidearms, but they trained hard and often. One of my favorite heroes of the day, Isaac Davis, led his men in training twice weekly on a range he built behind his blacksmith shop.

The odds were against them, but what gave them the slightest chance was their focus on marksmanship and practice. They didn’t just hope their muskets would work the way they wanted. They didn’t assume that cocking a hammer or just the mere presence of their weapon would scare their enemy. They prepared for the worst.

Their preparation helped them win the day.

Remember as you go about your day tomorrow:

If you enjoy your right to bear arms, and for that matter to train with them, keep in mind the reasons why you have these rights. These men felt it was worth fighting and dying to protect these rights. If you give them up freely, then all that bloodshed was for nothing.

And remember that in 1775, training is what carried the day. Training has won many wars throughout history, because superior equipment can only get you so far. It is the individual who pulls the trigger, wields the sword, or throws the punch and the time they spend training that matters.

1st Quarter Goals Checkup (Time to revisit your goals)

 

Photo by theogeo

Did you set goals this year? Any New Year’s resolutions? I hope you did because without setting goals you can only hope to be aimless and disorganized with your training. We set goals so we have something to aim for. Training is the journey, but goals are the waypoints or destination.

If training is a journey and your goal is the destination, then it makes sense to periodically check and make sure you are getting closer to the destination. Just like we keep our eyes open when we drive to make sure we don’t swerve off the road, we need to pay attention to our training ,making sure we stay on course for reaching our goals.

Since 25% of the year is already behind us, this is a perfect time to check on your progress. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help you discern whether you are being effective in reaching your goals:

Have you completed any goals?

Sometimes we set goals that are easier to achieve than we expected. It’s not impossible that you have already completed one or more of your goals for the year. If you have, that’s great – pat yourself on the back. If not, make sure you are making progress toward your goal.

Once you have completed a goal, you should ask yourself what is next. If you’ve already completed a goal by now and you were hoping to reach it by the end of the year, you still have 75% of the year left. This would be a good time to set a new goal to take yourself further.

One of my goals for this year was to increase my flexibility, specifically to improve my “touch your toes” stretch. I achieved this goal after roughly a month. This was a perfect opportunity for me to set a new goal, perhaps to stretch farther than I can now. In my case since I already had goals for other stretches, I intend to double down and focus even more on those stretches.

Are you making progress toward your goals?

Don’t feel bad if you haven’t accomplished a goal yet, progress may be just as good. Progress is a huge motivator. If you are getting worse, or staying stagnant, you need to revisit how you are attacking your goals. Three months without progress is a sign that it’s time to try something else.

Are you making enough progress toward your goals?

Hand in hand with making progress is making enough progress. One of my goals this year is to effectively triple the number of pullups I can do in a single set from 8 to 25. At my last check, I was performing around 11. At the rate of improving by 1 per month, I definitely won’t meet my goal by the end of the year. I am currently taking a crack at Stew Smith’s pullup push workout, which should give me a huge leg up towards this goal by the end of the week. I’ll revisit my current max and see what I need to do to reach my goal.

If it doesn’t look like you can reach a goal, you have two options. The first is to give up on that goal and pull it in to a more realistic level. There is no shame in this if you set yourself up with a super-human objective that you couldn’t dream of reaching. The second option is to take another look at your approach. Maybe you need more workout or practice sessions, or maybe getting some mentoring or instruction might help.

Whatever your goals, do take a serious look at them and your current progress. If you never course correct you will have a harder time reaching these goals. Most of the things we are trying to achieve take a lot of time and focus. If we don’t make the best use of our time, then our goals are out the window.

How are you doing with your goals?

Pistolcraft – The New Way of Strategy?

Miyamoto Musashi was a great swordsman who lived in the late 1500’s into the early 1600’s. He excelled in the use of the sword, but also as a tactician. As a practitioner of swordsmanship, Musashi like many other swordsmen was considered a strategist. And more so than studying the sword, these men practiced the way of strategy.

Picture by MShades

For them the sword was a tool. They needed to have the raw skills to manipulate that tool, but it was just one part of the big picture. Over the course of his life, Musashi defeated many men in duels. He has been credited with defeating a large group of warriors sent to kill him, and he ultimately lived his life undefeated. Musashi didn’t win all of these encounters purely based on his raw technique being better than his adversary; instead, he was a master of strategy.

During this time period it was common for the members of the warrior caste to carry with them their swords at all times. These strategists were always armed, and always ready for whatever threat might lay before them.

Translating the Sword to the Pistol

If you fast forward to today, it is uncommon to see anyone carrying a sword. The sword is in many ways a classic weapon, but not one that is considered part of the modern stable of fighting weapons.

In its time the sword was the weapon of choice for the armed citizen. Today the weapon of choice for the armed citizen is the pistol. We carry pistols to protect ourselves in the same way that the sword was carried in feudal Japan. The pistol has replaced the sword as the preferred implement of combat.

You could break the study of Musashi’s way of strategy into two parts: the study of the sword and its techniques and the study of the strategic and tactical use of the sword. We could similarly break down the study of pistol strategy.

Pistol as the New Way of Strategy

As with the sword, we can spend an eternity perfecting the use of the pistol. Marksmanship takes dedicated effort to master. Drawing the pistol and getting on target, recoil management, reloads, malfunction clearance, and retention merely scratch the surface of all of the skills that come along with studying the pistol.

Learning how to manipulate the sword does not make you a strategist, and neither does learning how to manipulate the pistol. To be tactically sound with the pistol there are a variety of skills and tactics that need to be mastered. Moving through structures and making best use of your environment to maximize cover and concealment both immediately come to mind.

The modern strategist goes above and beyond simply studying and perfecting the manipulations of a weapon. He learns to use that tool as part of a broader strategy. Raw skills are worth the investment of time and effort, but without strategy they will always remain just skills.

Training as Insurance

Image by Timmo885

One way to look at your training is from the perspective that it is an insurance policy. I take out an insurance policy on my car because I don’t know what the future holds. I could get in a car accident on my way to work after writing this post, or I could go through the rest of my life without getting in a single accident. Insurance provides some peace of mind should an accident ever occur.

Similarly, I don’t know if I’ll be able to go through the rest of my life without ever needing to employ force to protect myself or my loved ones. I live in a nice area, so I don’t expect a break-in to be likely, but it could happen. I could be in the wrong place at the wrong time and have someone attempt to mug me. Just like I would buy insurance for my car, I insure against these scenarios by training.

Just as car insurance can’t prevent an accident from happening, most training won’t prevent an attack. However, awareness training and verbal skills can prevent a confrontation from escalating. Insurance and training both serve to mitigate risk, reducing the chance of an undesirable outcome.

Another parallel between insurance and training is that we can choose our coverage levels and decide how much we spend. For my car I have the choice of adding theft or fire coverage to my vehicle, knowing that these are both less likely to occur than say a fender bender. I can decide not to buy those coverages and gamble that I won’t need them.

The same thing happens with training. By deciding to work only on square range shooting skills, I can save myself time by not training my firearms retention skills or my ability to handle malfunctions. One could argue that the most likely defense scenario would only involve needing to pull out my gun and hold someone at gunpoint. When I make decisions like that I am taking a risk. I must acknowledge that I will not be covered under different, though less likely, circumstances.

You decide what risks you are willing to take, and the coverage level you want to have. The better the coverage you have in your training, the more costly it will be (in actual cost of instruction but also in training time). We don’t all have thousands of hours a year to dedicate to our training.

Sometimes with insurance we can base our coverage decisions on who we are. Are you a safe or reckless driver? How safe are the neighborhoods you typically drive through or park in? Similarly, we can make educated guesses at our training needs. The men and women who sign up to risk their lives serving our country are willingly putting themselves into harm’s way. As a result they know more coverage is probably worth their time. The average citizen can avoid bad areas and make smart decisions to mitigate risk and decide how much coverage is warranted.

Ultimately we can never know exactly what will happen to us or what situations we may encounter. We must weigh the tradeoffs and understand the risks and rewards of the level of training we decide to pursue. I believe just about everybody should invest in basic coverage (shooting skills and basic hand to hand skills). Some will consider and invest in high coverage levels (gun grappling, vehicular skills, etc).

Make sure you aren’t skimping on your insurance, keep training.

What level of coverage to you enjoy? Do you have all your bases covered or do you only have basic coverage? Post a comment and let us know.

Why I Train

Image by www.brickgun.com

When I was a young kid, my first inspiration for training was (believe it or not) watching the Power Rangers on TV. After watching this show, I went to my parents and told them quite firmly that I wanted to study Karate.

While I obviously grew out of my Power Rangers phase, I am still training 18 years later. Karate became a part of my life that is so cemented in my being that any attempt to extricate it from my life would probably kill me.

I have also always been a gun fanatic. I just didn’t always know it. By my parents’ recollection I used to turn just about anything I could find into a gun in my youth. If I didn’t have a toy gun to play with, I would often just build one out of Legos. It was never something I really thought about too heavily, but when I turned 21 my affair with firearms would really begin.

Curiosity quickly gave way to obsession. Unlike the average gun enthusiast, I’m not purely about having a metric ton of cool guns and gear (although I do have a soft-spot for black rifles). I like having a collection of cool toys as much as the next guy, but more than that, I find myself ever drawn to training with them. The best times I have spent with firearms have been in classes, particularly in the classes with the lowest round counts.

My first course was Southnarc’s ECQC. We trained pre-fight verbal skills, clinch work, in-fight weapons access, wrestling in vehicles, and only one afternoon on the range. I probably shot 150 rounds in a three day course, and I had a ball. Training for some reason draws me like a high powered magnet. I can’t resist.

Why do I train? I don’t serve in a career that puts me in harm’s way. I’m a software engineer, not a soldier or cop. I don’t live in a high risk area either. I’m very unlikely to ever need the skills that I put so much time into practicing, though one never knows. It is better to have the ability to protect yourself and not need it than to need this ability and not have it.

I think that the desire to train can also be thought of in a historical context. Throughout the ages, mankind has sought out and studied warfare. At first the art of war was necessary and war was almost continuous. As time went on, individuals still chose to study and train, but it wasn’t necessarily because they expected to use these skills. Instead these capabilities gave people the ability to choose their own fate.

If you look at just about any period in history, the well armed and well practiced individuals were the only ones who could reliably lay claim to their own freedom.

I train not because I have to, but instead because I want to. I enjoy training, the sweat, the exhilaration of deflecting and returning blows, the smell of gunpowder in the morning.

Ultimately I train because it is a constant journey. You cannot reach perfection in the fighting arts. It is just not possible. I train because no matter how hard I work and study, there is always something more to learn. My training may have reached a point of diminishing returns, but it is a noble pursuit.

Why do you train?

Your Opponent Is Training Harder Than You

Need some motivation to go hit the gym, the mat, or the range? Well here it is: your opponent is training harder than you! This might not always be the case, but there is at least a slight chance that this is true. Do you really want to leave something like your life to chance?

Somewhere out there someone is better prepared than you are. They may just be stronger or faster, but they might even have a better developed skill set. These advantages your adversary has on you could be the difference between you that causes you to lose, or worse – die.

When you go train today, this week, or anytime for that matter, tell yourself:

My opponent is training harder than I am.

Fix it. Push yourself for one more rep on an exercise. Ultimately in most endeavors you need to push yourself harder. No one else can make you put in the effort that you need. Determine what your limit is, and try and push that limit every time you train. If you can’t raise the bar you most likely aren’t trying hard enough. All true gains come from within.

Making your training sessions more effective is just a piece of the puzzle. Not only is your opponent training harder than you, he is training more than you too.

My opponent is training more than I am.

Tell yourself that every morning. Use it as inspiration to find time to squeeze in another session each week. If you tell yourself that one hour of practice a week is enough then you are destined to fail. If you want to get good at something, you need to do it a lot. Train hard, but also train often. Get your lazy ass out of bed and do something.

Quantity doesn’t always beat quality, however. Your opponent is also probably training smarter than you are too.

My opponent is training smarter than I am.

Could it be true? Dedicate some amount of time each week to research training techniques, tactics and instructors. You need to go beyond just volume and continually try and improve how you train in order to maximize the results. Don’t get spastic about your training. Stick with what you are doing long enough to see results, or the absence of results. Without some consistency you cannot evaluate what is really working and what is a bunch of hype.

 

I hope I have inspired you not only to go train, but to go train harder, longer, and smarter than you are now. Don’t give up, and train like your life depends on it. Someday it might.

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