One of the cool things I get from having this blog and competing a bunch is that people ask me for advice. I’m flattered, of course, but my advice-giving abilities are quite frankly shitty. I make no money from these sports, and so I have no interest in or practiced-ability of convincing people to sign up or get back into it. So my advice tends to be brutally honest and (I fear) not very empathetic. But I’m getting better. The beginning is always rough, and so most of us need to be guided gently at first, before we’re thrown in with the wolves.
Here’s where I’m coming from… I train jiu jitsu almost exclusively now, not having gotten my black belt in judo… yet. That’s where my current struggle lies: trying to get back into judo while maintaining a more-than-full-time job and a serious competition training regimen in jiu jitsu. Anyway, the following are good rules that have worked for me many times in the past when I was first starting or re-starting an activity.
1. Just do it, and never stop
You don’t need a master-plan. Just show up, and keep showing up, until you figure out a plan that works for you, but never EVER stop showing up. If you are injured, have staph/ringworm/ebola, do something at home that physically drains you more than training. You can’t let your mind see an escape from training. If you get sick, you should be upset that you’re sick, because that means you have to do something that’s less fun than training, but you still have to do that something.
When I drill, there’s a tendency to not do it until I figure out a detailed set of techniques that I’m going to drill, but thanks to the infinite capacity of the brain to procrastinate, that approach results in me never drilling. What works is just doing it for 40-60 minutes, with or without a plan, and what happens is I actually quickly figure out a regimen that works.
No matter what, do not stop. If you’ve ever quit anything in your life, and I’m sure you have, you know that quitting gives your mind the knowledge that there IS an escape. And when shit gets tough, your mind will immediately against start looking for that same escape. You have to convince yourself that quitting is not an option. By the way, quitting is okay as long as you acknowledge to yourself that you are quitting and accept the consequences, but most people (like myself) gradually fall of the wagon without ever being brutally honest with themselves and quitting openly, clearly, and carrying the full weight of that decision.
2. Make a set of rules that cannot be broken
After you started showing up (see #1), it’s now time to make the concept of “showing up” more concrete. You have to set a minimum number of times you’ll train every week. It has to be tough but realistic. This is a “rule” you can never ever break, unless you plan for it way ahead of time. You have to write down modifications to this rule for special situations like if you’re sick or you’re traveling or there’s a huge deadline at work or something you have to do with the wife, kids, family, etc. For example, for training, here’s a rule for a competitor:
- Normal: Roll at least 40 minutes (actual rolling time) every day.
- When a little sick: Run outside or on a treadmill (at home) for 40 minutes, at a pace of 7.5 mph or faster.
- When really sick: Your body needs rest, but we can still torture the mind (in a good way)! So, watch 2 hours of instructionals, taking notes.
- When hurt: Do any kind of exercise that doesn’t affect the injured area for 40 minutes at heart rate of 150 bpm or higher.
- When traveling: Try to find a place, if not do the same as if sick.
That might sound like a lot, but it’s not. I’ve never actually have written it out like that. It’s just in my head. I have the same for reading, for programming, for learning.
3. Set a numeric goal
I write about this a lot, and those that train with me, know that I’m a big fan of spreadsheets and numbers. I like setting goals like: get 100 submissions in competition or do 30 tournaments this year or run 365 miles. A good goal is quantifiable, reachable, but tough. It should last several months, or at least a month. The point of a numeric goal is to get you to focus on progressing from 0% to 100% completion, one percent at a time. And while you focus on those small increments, time flies much faster, and most importantly: the habit of “showing up” builds. Once you get the habit going, everything becomes easier. For me, it takes about 3-4 weeks to build the habit of doing a new thing on a regular basis.
Hope some of this helps.