Practice with a Purpose
HOW TO TURN YOUR TRAINING
DELIBERATE THIS SUMMER BY RON KIPP
Summer training is a unique environment, and not just because of the
sunshine and long days. It actually opens up the chance to change some-
thing significant in your training.
You’ve heard the oft-repeated story. The question: “How do you get to
Carnegie Hall?” The answer: “Practice, practice, practice.”
Yes, practice is necessary for anyone who wants to succeed at almost any
endeavor. Malcolm Gladwell writes about the 10,000-hour rule in “Outliers”
— you need to practice at least that much to reach a level of expertise.
The Beatles are said to have achieved their 10,000 hours as a house band
in a Hamburg strip club, logging eight-hour sets, seven nights a week, for
weeks on end in what has been called the “rock-n-roll grad school”.
The Beatles had to create new songs for their regulars: new sounds, new
beats and new chords. Sometimes, they composed music on the spot in the
dim pub. And somehow, they garnered the prerequisite amount of practice,
playing with an intent that would turn them into a sensation.
Researcher K. Anders Ericsson calls this “deliberate practice,” and it ap-
plies to sport as well as to music. If ski racers go through a course without
purpose or goal, yes, they’ll be logging training hours. But according to Er-
icsson, these hours don’t make much of a dent in the 10,000 hours needed
for expert achievement.
Striving for “perfect” is deliberate practice. It doesn’t have to look perfect,
but the intent of trying to be perfect is a deliberate action that leads to learning. Constantly being perfect does little for the neuromuscular stimulus that
is required for learning. Being thrown off balance, striving to be on line, or
absorbing a rut from a previous set all challenge the ski racer and stimulate the neuromuscular system, making it stronger, or better said “smarter.”
Strong muscles are a definite benefit in ski racing. But if just being strong
decided the results, we would spend less time ski training and more time
in the weight room. How those strong muscles move and react is a result
of the neuromuscular action that has been trained previously with deliberate practice. As legendary golf champion Sam Snead put it, “Practice puts
brains in your muscles.”