Habit Forming

“We first make our habits, then our habits make us.” -John Dryden

Almost anyone who has accomplished something worthwhile had very good habits. The human body relies largely on ingrained actions. They save time and energy and make any task easier. We have only so much willpower. Every decision we force ourselves to make only saps this well a little more. Now, is this trainable? I’m sure that, to some extent, it is. However, as with many things, we may be better off simply keeping the well as full as possible most of the time.

Therefore, try to eliminate as many decisions as possible. Prepare food ahead of time. Develop routines before bed so it becomes easy to go to sleep when you need to and get quality sleep. There are many more, and specifics for everyone will differ. But the important thing is to develop good habits over time, because bad habits become very hard to break.

Doing the Ordinary

“I don’t expect my athletes to do extraordinary things; I expect them to do ordinary things extraordinarily well.” -Loren Landow

It is often unappreciated how important the fundamentals are to sport success. While the flashiness is what most often gets celebrated, it must be realized that all extraordinary performances are built on a solid foundation of fundamentals. Proper technique, ingrained over years and years and thousands of repetitions, lays the groundwork for exceptional performance of those fundamentals at a higher level. This goes back to the concept of stimulate-adapt-stabilize-actualize. Just because a skill has been completed once, does not mean it is readily performed immediately thereafter. It must be always revisited, and further cemented in the athlete’s motor pool. As it is repeatedly practiced, honed, and perfected, it becomes less volitional and more reflexive and instinctual. Once this is the case, it is performed at ever higher intensities and speeds, thus creating the performances you see at the highest levels. Ergo, don’t focus on doing the extraordinary – focus on doing the ordinary so well that it seems extraordinary.

Do It Every Day

“If it’s important, do it everyday.” -Dan Gable

This quote is applicable to any endeavor. In the context of sport and training, find a way to do something everyday that is directed toward your goals. This doesn’t mean you are trying to work as hard as possible, grinding away every day; in fact, many of them should be lower-intensity days. However, there is something that can be done on nearly any day. For instance, low-intensity activity can promote restoration. So, find a way to get your heart rate up for 20-30 minutes and improve your recovery. Or perhaps roll and stretch. In the case of general training, I think that the basic movement patterns of squat, hinge, push, and pull are important basal fitness constituents. I do so with my athletes by incorporating things into warmups, cool-downs, etc. Not everything need be externally loaded or pushed to its limit.

Keep in mind also the importance of doing the work when you don’t want to. If it’s important, show up. Everyday.

Recovery & Regeneration

Recovery is a hot topic in training these days, and with good reason. We don’t get better during training – we improve when we are recovering. Training is the impetus for the body to adapt. While there are many modalities you can use to improve/expedite recovery, the best method is to ensure that your training is appropriately programmed to allow for recovery to occur.

Here is a presentation I put together on recovery and nutrition. It runs right at an hour, and contains what I feel is good, basic information that any athlete can implement immediately.






This sequence is taken from a Dan Pfaff lecture. He notes that it actually comes from motor learning, but works quite well describing physiological processes.

As he has noted, we’re pretty good at the first 2, but pretty bad (and often negligent) of the last 2.

As coaches, we often will see an athlete do something and just assume “oh, now they can do it.” In reality, demonstrating the ability to perform a task once does NOT indicate an ability to repeat it. The body needs to stabilize at this new ability level, and then be able to realize it in a variety of environments.

I like to use the example of my infant son. The first time he crawled was probably 2 weeks before he actually started regularly crawling. While his body was capable of the movement, he wasn’t capable of it all the time, in a variety of situations. The same can be said of an athlete of any level – just because they can achieve a performance one time, does not mean they are capable of it all the time. It is incumbent upon the coach to realize this and plan accordingly.