Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tips on Preparing for an Effective Training Session

Have you heard ads for those "5 minute workouts", where you'll look like you spent HOURS in the gym, without actually having to make that kind of time investment? Sure you have. Do you believe them? Of course not! You know that in order accomplish anything of value, it takes actual effort - there's no shortcut. But, you CAN make the most of the time you do spend conditioning your body, learning the perfect golf swing, or even writing your first screenplay! Here are the steps that I've found to help keep me focused and productive from beginning to end.

Set a Specific Time Length

Before you start your training session, decide how long it's going to last. Stick to that time. Doing this simple action will keep you moving forward so you can accomplish the goals you gave yourself at the beginning.

Set Goals To Finish Within Your Given Time Frame

Let me say that if you want to feel that rush of accomplishment each and every time you get into Training Mode, then don't bite off more than you can chew. Set REALISTIC goals. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for failure. When you are looking to better yourself, it's a step-by-step process. After all, it took Rocky Balboa more than one afternoon in the weight room to get into shape after receiving the smack-down from Mr. T (a.k.a. Clubber Lang).

Clear your mind

Do you have your goals for the session? Do you know how much time you can dedicate today? Good! Time to relax. Sort of.

Before I actually begin a session, I make sure that I eliminate every distraction that I can. No, I don't shoot the neighbor's dog...that would be wrong (even though he never shuts up!) However, I DO turn off the TV and let my wife know not to disturb me for the hour or so I need for myself.

Once that's taken care of, I sit down, close my eyes, and breathe. Not just normal breathing, mind you. It's a long, slow breath in, then hold in for 5 seconds then slowly out again. You don't need to be a yoga expert to do this, just keep the eyes closed and breathe using your whole abdomen. Your stomach will go out, but no one is looking anyway, so don't worry.

As you breathe, visualize what you need to do to make your training a success. If it's free-throws you're working on today, imagine toeing the line. Imagine dribbling the ball, then making your "set". Feel the ball in your hands. Then, watch yourself push the ball upwards and snap the hand downward, putting the perfect arc on the ball that sends it straight through the waiting net. Easy, right?

After 5 minutes of this breathing/visualization, it's time to open those eyes, and start moving!


I'm not going to go into great detail here. Aside from the fact that you learned many many of these exercises in PE class, there are TONS of sites that can show you basic moves for arms/legs/head/wrists...etc. The key is to loosen up the whole body.


Alright, now we are into the meat and potatoes of your routine. Today, for example, I am practicing the bouncing of a ball off my head while juggling 3 clubs at the same time. I spend about 5 minutes just "heading" the ball, as it's the most important part of the trick. I've been a able to juggle 3 clubs for 20 years, after all. With each bounce, all of my attention is on what my body is doing (what kind of bounce it produces), making corrections as needed. If I lose the bounce, I stop and figure out why. Did I use too much force? Did I take my eyes off of the ball at any time? Once the cause is determined, I keep it in mind as I throw it into the air for the next run.

After the "heading" warm-up, it time to add the clubs. I start my bounce, then as the ball hits my head, I start the juggle. When trying something complex like this, one must prioritize. In this case, The ball bouncing from my head is the most important at all times. Whatever brainpower is left over goes to maintaining the juggle.
The whole point is that when you are executing, you must be evaluating at the same time. This is the only way to move forward quickly, as correcting mistakes as they happen is the most efficient use of your time. You don't want to have to re-learn a skill, right? Might as well do it right the first time.

Keeping a Journal

What was especially good about your session? What didn't work? Did you have any insights on how to play that tough bar of music for next week's band meeting? Is there something about your backhand technique that you changed in order to get more power? Write it down! I can't tell you the number of times that I said "Sure, I'll remember it next time", but when I stepped into the gym the next day, it was forgotten. There's absolutely no downside to having it there in front of you.

Well, that's all for now, folks. Get in your zone, work your butt off, and make the most of your practice sessions!

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