How to Build a Foundation for Athletic Success
Now is the time of year when many of us try to improve ourselves through fitness by making resolutions to lose weight, train five times a week, add weight to our lifts, or clean up our diets. In many of my previous articles and videos I have discussed at great length how to improve individual skills in regards to muay Thai. Today, I would like to take a big step back and look at the big picture - how to provide yourself with the foundation for success.
To improve in any athletic endeavor, we, as athletes, must all follow the same foundational behavioral habits, which when looked at are fairly simple. Be consistent, have big and small goals, log your progress, make yourself accountable, and show up to the gym. While these are all simple in concept, they become difficult to enact when we don’t prioritize our training.
Build Your Foundation With Consistency
The people I see who stay at the same skill level are those who always have an excuse for why they couldn’t make it to practice. These are the people who don’t hold themselves accountable and their reward is zero improvement. If you want to get better, the first step is to block off certain times of your day for training. That means unless the apocalypse is going down or you have bird flu, you are in the gym when you said you would be. So make a pact with yourself. Say to yourself, “I will be in the gym from 5:30pm to 7:00pm five days a week.” One of the hardest parts about training is showing up to the gym, but once you develop the habit of being there every day, it becomes easier and easier. When you have a solid foundation of consistency you are well on your way to becoming a badass.
Set Yourself Up for Success With an Objective
The next challenge to tackle is setting appropriate goals for yourself. When setting goals for your sport, it is always good to have several small ones and one big one. For instance, some small ones could be getting good at checking kicks, perfecting landing the jab, or mastering a certain sweep, while your big one could be to fight a certain amount of times over the year. By having multiple goals you can always see your improvement or, if need be, reevaluate what you are doing in order to achieve your goal.
Whatever your goals may be, when choosing them please use common sense. If you are just starting out in muay Thai, it would be an unrealistic goal to fight professionally in six months. Goals should challenge you, but not set you up for failure. The last thing you want to do is make yourself fail. Failure can be a powerful learning tool, but let it come from unforeseen circumstances - not yourself. Take some time when setting your goals and be specific on what you want. The more specific you can be the easier it will be to game plan your path to success.
Focus Your Training by Journaling
Once your goals are locked in and you know what you want to accomplish, it’s important to start logging your progress. Recording what you have done during your training doesn’t have to be a long and drawn-out process. Just a couple of sentences a day can make a huge difference in how you’re training advances. If, for example, you’re sparring and you keep getting nailed by your opponents jab write down, “Work on jab defense.” This will ensure that during your next training session you have a purpose and direction for your learning. My coach always used to say to me, “Showing up to class and going through the motions is good, but actually having a purpose behind what you are doing will make you great.” So regardless if you’re a martial artist, strength athlete, yogi, or endurance athlete, get yourself a journal and start recording your training sessions.
If you want to be successful in a physical discipline and achieve the goals you have set for yourself, it’s all about appropriately modifying your behavior. If you can do that, then you’re bound to achieve any goal you have. When teaching, I am constantly telling my students the importance of having a strong foundation. I tell them, “You will always revert to the most basic when put under pressure.” So, if your most basic foundation is strong as hell, then no matter what life throws at you, you’ll keep kicking ass and getting better.
Photos courtesy of Ana Nieves.