It is a question you need to ask yourself.

Are you just playing or are you practicing?

I have spoken about getting your dreams is more then just about turning up.

Turning up is important.

But turning up and going through the motions while your mind is elsewhere is really wasting your time. Turning up is only half the battle.

The problem is many of us end up playing.

We start and we focus and it’s new to the body and thus we see some result pretty quick. That’s adaptation working. But then we hit that plateau and when that happens many look to sexy training stuff and/or look for short cuts with equipment or supplement x.

A question.

Why is that two people can start the same skill at the same time, put in the same amount of hours and end up on vastly different levels of ‘mastery’?

Genetically gifted talent aside. I’m not talking about the outlier here.

I’m talking about you. The good ole regular age group Ironman athlete. So how can the outcomes differ so greatly, if you started at the same time and put in the same consistent hours?

Well, one plays, learns the ropes and continues to play. The other practices and works through the uncomfortable skills.

See playing is enjoyable. We end up focusing more on the components we like and then just getting through the ones we don’t like as much.

Practicing is uncomfortable.

And by praciticng I’m taking about what author Geoff Colvin of “Talent is Overrated” speaks so much about and that is ‘Deliberate Practice’.

Deliberate practice is quite often the exact opposite of enjoyable.

It can be downright uncomfortable.

I’ll put it in context of training. I’ll be honest, when it comes to swimming, I always breathe to the left. Always. Because it is comfortable for me. I have got to an acceptable level of skill in my Ironman swims in the mid 50s.

But being complacement as it’s an acceptable time is not what I’m about and aside from times, could that left side only breathing be contributing to some t-spine, diaphragm issues? Maybe.

So this morning I decided to deliberately practice breathing twice to the left then three strokes and twice to the right, three strokes back to the left. I was uncomfortable, I have to decide to keep to it. That meant I had to slow a little to maintain it, and then I had to add in the pull buoy to maintain form. I also had to focus doubly as hard on the little cock of the elbow to form the catch that keeps my elbow from dropping.

Every single stroke I get an opportunity to think about it, cock the elbow and get instant feedback on the stroke. Thinking about each stroke is deliberate practice. I get to improve my breathing ability and balance out musculature.

This is how I improve.

Thrashing your arms about and trying to push harder to get to the other end of the pool is just playing. There is nothing deliberate about it and it keeps you at your ‘acceptable level’ of skill.

To improve your swimming, aside from a shit load of patience and having a long term view, you’ll need to get in and do the hard, uncomfortable deliberately focused work. Over and over again.

Simply being present and focused on deliberately practicing the skill.

We can improve all 3 of the component sports each and every time we train them.

Simple, not easy. And as any skill that is tough, it will create uncomfortable sensations in your head. Don’t shirk from these.

Embrace it and smash those performance plateaus.

Oh the skills to focus on?

Reserved for my coached athletes or those that grab my Ironman or 70.3 Blueprints

Coach Kristian

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