One of the major side-effects of having a consistent practice is that you constantly get better at training. It’s a great little mechanism that’s built into the process. As you move forward with the right attitude and focus, you’re able to continually refine your approach. This provides a degree of balance to the diminishing returns that come with the time you invest as an intermediate or advanced athlete. That initial wave of n00b-gains eventually slows to a trickle, but your ever-improving methods will keep you moving forward.
This refinement of the process comes in many forms. This summer I wrote about how important it is to cultivate tenacity to master the art of failure. Today’s focus is on intent.
Intent is all about deliberate action. In training, this means having a purpose for everything you do. When you select an exercise or drill for your program it should have a clear connection to your training goals. When you begin each training session you should know what you want to accomplish that day. When you start each set you should be honing in on a specific technical detail of that movement. When you perform each rep you should be present and focused.
That last one is really important, because gains in skill, strength, or whatever neuromuscular qualities you’re trying to develop come one rep at a time. Each repetition you perform will lead you either towards mastery or mediocrity, and it all depends on the intent you bring to the execution. If you perform each rep with the intent of making it better than the last, and you understand what is required to make that happen, then you’ll be stepping forward towards that sweet, sweet goal. But with each rep that you approach with a “let’s just get this done” attitude and a willingness to zone out, your foot will stray outside of that straight, efficient path.
It’s not like every repetition of each movement you perform is going to be perfect. That’s not the point. We’re all going to stumble around to some degree on that journey. If any of us were to look back at the path that’s gotten us this far, it’d probably look much akin to a drunkard wandering through the snow. What’s truly important is that you continually return your focus to the path you want to travel. Intent is a bit like a compass in that respect, reorienting you when you start to go astray.
Bringing this kind of intent to your training isn’t easy (unless you’ve already developed it in some capacity). It’s just as much a skill as the movements you’re working to master, responding very well to a little consistent repetition. Initially, it may take a ton of effort to channel even a trickle of focus before you move, but eventually centering your mind will become second nature (and you’ll wonder how you ever trained any other way).
Train with intent, and improvement can’t help but follow. Cultivate this quality until you can bring deliberate execution to every part of your training session, from warm-up to cool-down. You’ll probably even find this intent will start to seep into the rest of your life. (Isn’t that the real power behind physical training anway?)
[Happy holidays, everyone. Don’t forget to move in spite of the busy days to come!]