Part 1 of this series included suggestions on how to select new practices to expand on your current training regime based on your interests and capabilities, and explored ways to help you evaluate and decide:
- The new method must get your attention to keep you engaged for the long game.
- Your capabilities will enable you to improve in each discipline, albeit not at the same rate.
- Most people should limit themselves to 2-3 new practices.
- The modalities should mesh physiologically and psychologically with your abilities and interests.
Begin With a Plan
I competed in powerlifting for many years, but I haven't explicitly trained toward that sport in some time now. Instead, I’ve been competing again in Olympic weightlifting. I have less overall strength for a big powerlifting total and instead more specific strength and ability that’s useful for weightlifting.
And so I scheduled my weightlifting meet first in the year. My strategy is to build up more overall power, even while I focus on the specific skill of weightlifting, to have a better base to concentrate my efforts toward powerlifting after the weightlifting competition is over.
As I outlined the year:
- I planned the first four months to be general, where I purposely lacked focus on any of the disciplines and just practiced them all to the best of my ability.
- I didn’t set goals for any of them but focused instead on the process of doing.
- Then I planned for two and a half months of focus on weightlifting. That’s not to say I’ll stop practicing Muay Thai or that I’ll lose sight of needing to increase my strength capacity for powerlifting as I mentioned before.
- But more of my efforts will be focused on weightlifting, and I’ll intentionally try to get better to the detriment of the other two practices.
- This is an entirely different mindset from the first four months of the year.
After the weightlifting competition:
- The strategy was to focus on powerlifting for three months, including competition.
- Then shift focus to Muay Thai for three months and compete in that in some capacity.
- Muay Thai is still very new to me, so it makes complete sense to wait until the very end of the year to test myself in any capacity in this sport.
And to be clear, I’m not under the delusion that I’ll be lining up an actual fight. This test could be a controlled, full contact sparring session with someone resembling my ability level. I’m practicing Muay Thai because I love the practice, not because I delusionally think I will become a legitimate fighter. I believe in respecting and doing only what a coach tells me to do. If he thinks I’m not even ready to spar in this way, I’ll still focus my practice as if I were.
Prioritize by Psychological Significance
All of these choices are prioritized by psychological significance, which I think is a suitable method. Like I’ve mentioned, even if you emphasize only one thing, if you practice many things, you can’t expect to master it all in a year.
So to me, it was most important I did better in Olympic weightlifting and Muay Thai over powerlifting. This logic was another reason I put powerlifting in the middle, deprioritizing it.
- I competed in powerlifting for several years and am content with what I did give who I am. I’m planning to compete in it this year not because I have unfinished business but rather because it’s still something I’m very much vested in it as a coach and in principle.
- Weightlifting, however, has been more of my passion for the last few years and in what I’ve poured hours. So, I wanted to put my best effort toward this, first.
- Muay Thai is something that’s been refreshing and novel to me and something that I’ve found happiness and creativity. I want to put in the time and respect it deserves before I try to test myself in it, so this goes last.
If you want to develop yourself through many practices, even if only very slowly and recreationally, you need to create structure before you add. Like my example, this can be done by sitting down and drawing out a yearly plan.
But the structure also includes your decision making. Having self-determined rules on how to decide what you truly want to study. Decide what is uniquely you.
Decide the Rules
Make a list, create the structure, decide the rules:
- Don’t worry if it’s not perfect
- Don’t worry if you think you may change it eventually.
- You don’t need to attach your identity to it.
- You’re not unbreakably united to it.
What’s on your list to learn and improve on this year doesn’t have to be next year. You could create a radically different list with another structure.
But, once you decide on something, see it through to the end because the lessons learned from improving one discipline will show you generally, universal principles that you can apply to everything. You’ve heard it before, and it’s true, how you do one thing is how you do everything.
If you don’t see something through, at least until you’ve learned something new about yourself, you’ll never earn the self-understanding for which you’re looking. That is, you won’t build the discernment to know if you’re susceptible to quitting when things get difficult or if you need a different approach that requires you to adjust your perceptions. You won’t know how to identify why these impulses to change come, and if they are because of impatience or because of an excellent draw to something more authentic to you.
If seeing something through seems like a waste of your time, don’t be so sure. I read something a while back that went something like this—you can learn something even from a bad book if nothing else than to know how not to write or speak. I can’t remember the book. If you learn to improve in something you learn the skill of persistent effort, which you need for everything.
Prioritize by Physiological Significance
We’ve looked at improving in multiple disciplines by how we structure our practice, but when we deal with physical activities, we need to consider the physiological demands of the different stresses.
In Part 3, we’re looking to improve in multiple domains. We have to consider factors such as:
- Recovery and adaptation periods between the bout of the activity
- Grouping similar stresses
- Properly layer everything on a weekly or monthly basis
A little forethought will go a long way in creating an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
Jesse competes in the sport of Olympic weightlifting and he was also formerly a competitive powerlifter. He has been featured in main strength and fitness publications. You can read more from him on his website.