3 Tips For Building Continuity Between Training Sessions

Photo Credit:  christgr

Photo Credit: christgr

When training individually we often find things we can improve on. Slight adjustments to technique or perhaps better methods altogether may occur to you as you train. One key to maximizing your success in training is to make sure that these new ideas don’t get washed out with the tide every time you end your training session.

In dry-fire I might notice that I’m not picking up the front sight fast enough… and then make an effort to improve that. But if I forget about this effort, the next time I start dry-firing, I’m right back at square one.

Fortunately there are some tricks to help you keep your current focus points front and center.

Make use of your training notebook

If you use a training notebook, then half the job is done for you. As you make new discoveries in your training you should try to note them in the entry for that session. For example, you might note things like hand position during a reload or the discovery that you need to work on picking up the front sight sooner.

When it’s time to start the next session, go right back to the notes from your previous session. If you noted areas of difficulty or things you were working on, this is the perfect chance to make them conscious before starting back into your training.

If you end the session totally confident with this new skill or area for improvement you can note your success or just leave it out of the log. If you aren’t confident, however, note that too so you remember to keep working at it. Remember that the key to making this work is checking the last session’s log before starting.

Write your plan for the next session at the end of the current one

Oftentimes I finish a dry-fire session or even a day in the dojo knowing I wasn’t happy with some aspect of my performance. These are good days to do some pre-planning for the next session.

You can do the same, and write a plan for each training session. Don’t wait until right before the session to write this plan, instead make it part of your training routine. Write down the drills and plan of attack for your next session at the end of the current one. This way you can capture what needs work and where you want to focus next time.

Note cards or sticky notes on your gear

If you have trouble using a training notebook, or continually forget to open your notebook before starting, then get some sticky notes or note cards. You can write your plan or areas for improvement on these cards or sticky notes and stick them right to your training gear, whether that be a dry-fire pistol, empty mags for training, or your gym bag.

Placing these front and center will help keep your areas for improvement from falling out of focus.

The most important thing to remember about any of these ideas is that the key is keeping some continuity between sessions. Disjointed, spastic training tends to have less of a positive impact than coordinated effort.

These are a few methods for keeping continuity between training sessions. Now it’s your turn. How do you build from session to session?

What Are Your Goals for 2013?

Photo Credit: Peter Kaminski

In case it wasn’t already obvious… this post is about a month late. Life got busy… Hopefully this is timeless content and you don’t mind the delay. Thank you for reading!

Well, it is here: 2013. A new year, and coming with it new challenges. Many people set out with New Year’s resolutions, goals and changes they intend to make to their lives. This is also a great time for reflection on the goals of the previous year.

Looking back at 2012

Looking back at 2012 I made a lot of training goals to go along with my ambitions to build this blog. Looking back now I’m actually happy that I didn’t publish a list of these goals, because honestly it is a little embarrassing how poorly I performed.

I only achieved a few goals, but worse than making progress and not meeting the mark is the large number of goals I set that I never even attempted to make progress on. I think this demonstrates a few things about setting goals.

  1. Too many goals can be a huge problem. In a previous post about setting goals, I pointed this out but failed to follow my own advice. 18 goals was way too many.

  2. I didn’t follow up or have intermediate goals. That means that it was easy to forget about the things not immediately on my radar. As a result I made no progress on them.

  3. For the goals I did make progress on, I fell short on almost all of them. I set goals that I thought were attainable, but honestly it seems like I set the bar too high.

New Philosophy for 2013

This brings me to the coming year. Obviously how I set my goals needs to change, both to make them more attainable and to make sure I have a proper plan in place to keep on top of these goals.

First, I’m going to limit the number of goals. I’ll follow my own advice and try for 7. That is much more reasonable than 18, and is basically the number of goals I actually worked on out of my 18 for 2012.

Second, I’m going to set intermediate milestones every 2 months, and set up reminders to check my progress against these milestones. If I fall behind in two months, I’ll have another kick in the ass to keep moving.

Third, I’m lowering the bar on my goals. Since most of these goals are almost exactly the same in nature to goals from 2012, I’ll use the amount of progress I made last year as a guide for setting my new goals.

Goals for 2013

To keep myself honest I’m even going to publish my goals as well as my intermediate milestones.

  1. Improve my 3 F.A.S.T. Avg (in a given range session) to be < 6 seconds

There isn’t much to say about this other than the fact that I’m scaling back from my goal of < 5 seconds for this year… and making the goal tracking more towards consistency. I want to be consistent as well as fast.

Milestones:

Feb Apr Jun Aug Oct Dec
< 7.0s < 6.8s < 6.6s < 6.4s < 6.2s < 6.0s
  1. Achieve a 50/50 Dot Torture at 6 yards

In 2012 my goal was a 50/50 at 5 yards, and I almost made it. I’m raising the bar a little since I have a whole year to go, but I want to achieve my goal this time.

Milestones:

Feb Apr Jun Aug Oct Dec
50/50 @ 5yds 46/50 @ 6yds 47/50 @ 6yds 48/50 @ 6yds 49/50 @ 6yds 50/50 @ 6yds
  1. Participate in 5 IDPA matches in 2013

Last year I made it to 2. I want to make sure I get to some more matches if for no other reason than to keep pressure testing my shooting skills.

Milestones:

Feb Apr Jun Aug Oct Dec
0 0 1 3 5 5
  1. Get classified in IDPA

I wanted to make it to IDPA Expert in 2012, but didn’t even get a chance to get classified. Instead my goal is to get classified this year, because quite frankly I need a point to measure from.

Milestones: N/A

  1. Study all Kata up to Sandan

One of my life goals in 2013 is to get my new NH dojo off the ground. I’ll be launching I launched the dojo in January and will hopefully get enough students to keep the doors open. As part of this goal I want to dedicate more of my life to regular karate training. A major piece of this is not only studying the Kata I know already, but to learn the new Kata that I should for my next grade.

Milestones: Rather than list the entire litany of Kyokushin Kata here I’ll generalize: I have picked a few for each milestone to focus on for each 2 month period. At a minimum I should be able to check off that I have spent the time or I haven’t up until I get to the ones I am starting to learn.

  1. Increase my one set max for pullups to 15

Improving my pullups was a major goal last year. I increased my total by a few, but fell well short of my goal of 25. This year I’m decreasing my goal to be only 4 or 5 above my usual one set max.

Milestones:

Feb Apr Jun Aug Oct Dec
10 11 12 13 14 15
  1. Increase my one set max for pushups to 40

I also spent a lot of time in 2012 working on improving my pushups. Now I do need to qualify that when I am talking about pushups, I am talking about knuckle pushups where my chest goes all the way to the floor. This full range of motion is much more difficult than the more common dinky pushups, and hence why the goal number is fairly low.

Milestones:

Feb Apr Jun Aug Oct Dec
20 24 28 32 36 40

What are your goals for 2013?

I’ve told you about my goals, but what are yours? Please post your goals in the comments below, or email me. If I get enough feedback I plan on putting together a post listing everyone’s goals for 2013 to hopefully help people in determining what kinds of goals they should make for 2013.

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?

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