3 Steps To Make Your Training Work With a Volatile Schedule

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My schedule is almost always jam packed. Between the ”day job,” running my new dojo, serving on the BoD at my local fish and game club, and all of life’s other little surprises, there is almost always something I need to be doing.

Some of these demands on my time are constant. I know I’ll always be in the dojo certain nights and that most of the day I’ll be on site working for my clients. Working my training around these fixed obligations is relatively easy.

What’s more difficult is finding time when my schedule changes rapidly. A deadline approaches at work, an impromptu meeting, or maybe even just coming down with a cold all throw a wrench in the works. It’s dealing with an ever changing schedule that really makes consistent training hard.

Fitting your training in

In my situation I’m pretty much forced to find a way to make my training fit in around the rest of my life. I’ve found a few tricks that really help me, hopefully they can help you too.

Break your program into manageable chunks

If you have a tight schedule to work around, you should consider breaking your training program into smaller manageable chunks. Maybe 10 or 20 minutes each.

Breaking your program into small pieces provides two benefits: firstly, shorter sessions can easily be worked in and around your schedule. If your schedule changes, it is a lot easier to move a 20 minute workout around compared to a 2 hour mega workout.

You might even plan to do 3 of your mini sessions back to back under ideal circumstances – but when things change you can easily reorganize your schedule.

Organize your ‘chunks’ into your program

Once you have multiple sessions to draw from, you want to organize them to form a training program. For dry-fire training you might have 5 different dry-fire days, each of which consists of a different routine. Work your dry-fire days in order to ensure an appropriate balance regardless of whether you can do 10 sessions a week or 1.

Using multiple sessions like this means that when something unexpected comes up, it doesn’t destroy your program.

Pick optimal training days and times

My dry-fire days are usually Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, since those are the days I’m free of most of my evening obligations. As a result I tend to tentatively plan on working my dry-fire sessions in on those days. By keeping these evenings open for dry-fire I force myself to make a consistent effort to work on my goals. Don’t just assume that once you have broken your program into smaller chunks you will train when it strikes you as convenient. You still need a plan, but being flexible with that plan will help you stay on track.

This is how I work around my volatile schedule. Do you have a crazy work or travel schedule to work around? How do you handle it? Do me a favor and post a comment to share your strategies.

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

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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.

Do You Spend Too Much Time Reading About Training?

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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

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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.

The Secret to Training on the Road

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I don’t travel very often. A vacation every once in a while and a trip for business here and there.  One of the biggest costs of traveling is the time it takes out of your training. Sure, sometimes you really need that break from training to help reset yourself and rest so you can go back at training hard again. But if you travel a lot, it can be a serious detriment to your progress.

If you are anything like me, getting home and seeing your skills or fitness droop because you haven’t been maintaining them is a frustrating thing. There are a few ways to keep your skills fresh despite being away.

Dry-fire in the hotel room

Traveling anywhere that allows you to carry your normal concealed weapon is a great thing. Not only do you have the means to protect yourself, it also enables you to dry-fire while on the road. Dry-fire is great practice, and it can be an excellent way to keep your skills up when traveling.

The most important thing when practicing with dry-fire is safety. Make sure no ammunition is anywhere near the firearm you are practicing with, and make sure you are practicing in a safe direction. In a hotel this can be very hard given the density of the building and the number of people around.

At home I prefer to dry-fire against a concrete wall or utilizing a wall with nothing valuable to shoot behind it. In a hotel this is often difficult to do. Keep an eye on which side of the hotel you are on, and what is located where. This past week when I was traveling, I noticed the hotel was located directly in front of a mountain and had a a great view of it from my window. Dry-fire at this wall was safe because even if a round somehow went off, it would end up in a huge berm not far from the hotel.

If this is not an option and you travel frequently, a Kevlar vest is a very portable option that can be hung or placed as a backstop. Its more expensive than some other options, but it does give you some peace of mind when dry-firing.

Just because you have a backstop doesn’t mean you can be lax in your safety. Dry-fire is inherently dangerous and requires your conscious commitment to safety. Your business trip or vacation will end quite quickly and uncomfortably if you fire a round in your hotel room.

You can get fancy when practicing in the hotel room like you do at home, or just work on sight alignment and working the trigger. Keep in mind that the more props you use in training, the more you’ll have to travel with. I prefer to travel light, so simple and abbreviated sessions are all I need to keep me from losing my skills.

Workout just about anywhere

Training isn’t just about shooting. For me it’s very much about getting into and staying in fighting shape. Most hotel fitness rooms are anemic in the equipment they provide. A couple of treadmills or an elliptical and maybe a weight machine or two.

Most of my own strength training comes in the form of body weight exercise: pull-ups, push-ups, squats, crunches, etc. All of these except pull-ups can be done easily in a hotel room. Do the same bodyweight routine minus the pull-ups, or find a bodyweight routine if you normally hit the weights. Just like at home, a park or playground can provide a great outdoor gym and is the perfect venue to work on your pull-ups.

Find a local range

If you are traveling for long enough it is probably worth looking for a local commercial range. Bring that Kevlar you bought to dry-fire in your hotel room and be prepared to pay through the nose for range time. If you really want to keep your skills up you need practice, so this might just be worth it for you.

Traveling can be necessary for work, and even for pleasure. Rather than have it put a stop to your training, find ways to maintain your skills on the road. Use these tips and come up with a plan before you pack for your trip.

Do you train while traveling? What tips can you suggest?

Getting Those Extra Reps

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Practice makes perfect, or at least perfect practice does. With our busy lives and many responsibilities, it is often hard to find ways to get the practice we need to really improve or even maintain our skills.

If I had the time, I would invest a few hours a day doing various dry fire drills, and spend a day or two a week at the range practicing there. I would love to spend a few hours a day working on strength, flexibility, and general fitness. Finally, spending a few hours working on various combative skills in the dojo, on the mat, or both would round out my training for the week.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m currently working a full time job that has nothing to do with training. I can’t afford the 6+ hours a day of training that would be my ideal. My guess is that you don’t have that kind of time either.

One way to maximize your training time is to find ways to include the things you really want to practice in your everyday life. By finding time for a few extra reps throughout your day, you help to build your ability to recall a skill on demand. More importantly, you take advantage of those moments of downtime in your day to accomplish your goals.

In strength training this is often called greasing the groove. The idea is that if you want to get better at a specific exercise, you work on that exercise throughout the day. For example if you can only do 1 or 2 pullups and want to increase your max reps for pullups, do 1 or 2 pullups at various intervals throughout the day. This improves your capacity to do pullups, and will add up to make a big difference.

Firearms training can work the same way to an extent. I have a good friend who takes an extra draw stroke when putting his carry pistol away for the night (and he does the same with every knife he carries as well). What this does is build extra repetitions into his day at points where it is safe to do so. I would strongly caution you not to take an extra draw stroke at the office throughout the day, you might cause some… office tension.

Fighting skills can work the same way. If you are working on training your default position, you can get reps in on this just about anywhere and anytime you can avoid looking silly in public. You can also work reps of various strikes throughout your day as well. If you carry a knife, anytime you need it for an everyday task you have an opportunity to practice deploying it as you would for self-defense (just be wary of doing this in public).

You can add reps to your day for just about any skill or attribute you are trying to train. Adding reps fits just a little more practice into your busy day so you can make more significant improvements with the same amount of dedicated effort. If you are having trouble making gains in a particular area or are having a hard time fitting training time into your schedule, try adding some extra reps to your daily routine. With a little creativity, you could turn some of the monotonous moments in your life into perfect training opportunities.

Do you fit extra reps into your day? What do you work on and how? Post a comment and let us know.

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