Repetition and practice makes perfect are the only ways to improve, right? Well if you keep on doing the same thing but you aren't seeing the improvements then tweak it. Improvement is never by accident it is intentional. You need to make a focused effort in order to improve yourself. One morning while at the gym I was doing some overhand pullups. These have been a staple exercise to improve my back and grip strength. While I was in the middle I heard a guy yell across the gym “Get it man!” He seemed to be impressed because not that many people do pullups at the gym. He told me to do two small tweaks to my pull up form: I was thinking o man I hope he is not going to suggest some kipping pull ups where you use all your momentum and where there is no concept of form whatsoever. Instead he asked me to do a small tweak and stick out your chest and bend your knees so your feet are not straight. It was such a small change and I thought how much of a difference can that make in my pullups.
For my next set of pullups I tried his suggestions. O man did I feel it. I never hit my lats like I did before. I was able to activate my lats and I felt it the rest of the day. I also felt I had better posture because my back was not rounded. This small tweak opened my eyes to realize I have been doing pullups inefficiently. It got me thinking about how many things in my life that I was not doing optimally. I was under the impression that I would need to make big changes in order to see major results. However, tweaking my pullup inspired me that logic is not always correct.
Reflect on your habits and see what you can change in order to improve. Small changes can have a big impact. If you are not getting feedback you might not know what you are doing wrong or what you need to improve. I kind of think of it as a feedback loop either from biology or like those in operational amplifiers. Sometimes it does not take drastic changes to make a difference. Instead you can make fine-tuned adjustments based on feedback on how you are doing. Each small adjustment gets you closer your goal. If we don’t know what is possible then how do we know what we are currently doing is not optimal. That is why I find great inspiration from people who do things I can’t even dream of. Once you see them you realize that you are capable of much more than you think. If we are so used to a certain way of thinking we won’t know what we can truly achieve and what is possible.
Be a Life Long Student
When I first started working out I would try new variations and constantly learn new techniques. I was a beginner, I didn’t know what was right from wrong so I had to keep on experimenting and testing out new techniques that felt right. I would research new variations of exercises and then test them out, the gym was my lab. If the exercise felt good then I would continue doing it. However, once I thought I found the perfect exercise then the learning stopped and the habit started. I got into the habit of doing the same exercises but not really going up in weight. I was hitting a plateau and did not know how to take my training to the next level. The problem that I realized was that I was not aware that was plateauing and not improving in my workouts. The one thing that I started doing was recording my workouts and my weight. I want to see overtime how well I am doing but more importantly find the contextual relationship between my improvements and the actions I take to achieve them. It is almost as if I am running an experiment and testing out new exercises seeing which ones yield the greatest result.
I have to be able to let myself learn again and constantly improve. Sometimes it takes an outsider to point out what can be improved. A set of fresh eyes can easily point out something that has gone undetected to you. We can do this ourselves by learning how to reflect in a non-judgmental way in areas that we can improve in. The smartest people are lifelong students. I loved it in college where I can explore deeply a topic and discover all of its intricacies. I learned how to give myself the freedom to learn and just learn for the sake of it. I think of being a student as constantly growing and the freedom to explore. When we stop learning and stop trying to seek out new possibilities we are caged up and our growth is stunted. We impose artificial barriers that prevent us from becoming a student and trying new things. Whether it is being afraid to look foolish or being scared of the unknown these limitations we impose upon ourselves hinder our growth. We then hesitate to try something new in a different way and this paralyzes us.
The Never Ending Peak
All it takes is just one small tweak and you can potentially see 5 times the improvement. Always keep on learning and keep trying new things, don’t get stuck in a rut, which is the joy of exploring life. Now, can we even reach the peak, is there even a peak? It might seem foolish to keep chasing a goal that just keeps on growing infinitely. We can have two takes on this: one is to never be satisfied and always yearn for more and the second is be happy with where you are at now and have fun experimenting and improving yourself. Instead of treating it as work you want to treat it as play and adventure, always seeking the infinite possibility.