woman doing yoga

Deliberate Practice

Deliberate practice: “a highly structured activity engaged in with the specific goal of improving performance.”

If you play sports or just really like reading sports psychology, you may be pretty familiar with this idea already.

When I played roller derby, it was a hot topic at conferences and coaching seminars. It was especially useful for advanced skaters that, like in many sports, might have minor weaknesses they tried to cover up with their strengths. A lot of skaters have a dominant side for things like hitting, turning, and double toe stopping. Some can’t even turn on one particular side without eating shit. (This was me.)

I used the theory of deliberate practice to take myself back to the basics of a particular skill I had issues with to break it down, repeat it consistently, and gain confidence at the skill. Despite being an advanced skater who could zip around and turn towards the outside, bounce around on my toe stops, and keep on skating, I sucked at turning the other way.

At the beginning of every practice, I started slowly skating around the track and turning on both sides. I had to forget everything I knew about turns and toe stopping on my dominant side because I didn’t even think about doing it on that side, and doing the same quick movement didn’t work. On my other side, I had to break it down like a beginner and go through the steps repeatedly.

Shift weight, pick a spot on the wall to focus on. Turn to the inside, half moon or take a starting step, turn, skate backwards. Put toe stops down.

Deliberate practice is more about breaking something down into the basics, though. It’s about doing absolutely everything you possibly can do to improve performance at something. Living it. Breathing it.

I started CrossFit and Olympic Weightlifting recently, and almost immediately I started having shoulder pain. The good news is it’s nothing serious, I know why it’s happening, and it doesn’t hurt much if I do mobility afterward. The bad news is that I need to focus incredibly hard on pulling my shoulders down and back to keep it from getting worse. I need to strengthen the surrounding muscles and my back.

I need to live and breathe injury prevention, and I can’t afford to not practice deliberately.

I arrive 20+ minutes early to wake my back up, do Crossover Symmetry, and properly warm up. I spend 10 minutes on mobility after exercising, including fully stretching out my shoulder. Every morning, I go through a foam roll routine and do banded rows.

I can’t really explain the peace that comes over me in doing all these things.

Slowly. Thoughtfully. Deliberately.

At some point, I wondered, what if I approached everything this way? Food. Friends. Writing.

What if I viewed everything I ate as another way to enhance performance? As fuel to do the things I need my body to do? What if I structured my time to give myself more time to write? If I actually practiced writing and allowed myself to think creatively?

I’ve been eating 100x better and I actually wrote something, soooo I’d say there’s something to this beyond the athletic world…

%d bloggers like this: