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Baby steps to the mats…

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Small, easily attainable goals make reaching the overarching goal possible.

I have been doing my best to reintegrate myself back to regular martial arts training, which has been made challenging with everything going on.

Things have definitely changed over the years. In the past, I was the guy that never wore head gear, knee pads, or even a shirt. I was trying to be like the ancient Olympians, except I had shorts on, lol!

Now things are different. I have on a long sleeve rashguard, spats, knee pads, and the latest addition, a wrist brace. I bring with me a protein shake, plenty of water, and 6 gummy bears (post workout dextrose). I have learned that being properly prepared and being able to recover quickly are crucial to longevity.

But preparation for a workout is easy, the execution isn’t. Each part of getting to the workout is a micro goal or baby step, a reference from the hilarious movie “What About Bob?”. For example, on Monday I did a heavy weight training leg workout. It is the workout I most dread, as I mentioned on my social media, last time I nearly passed out on a leg press from the effort.

The workout is not designed to be easy. No intense workout will ever be easy, no matter how will conditioned you are. In fact, the better shape you are in, the more intense the workout will be.

So when I think about completing the workout, I don’t think of the whole. It is about 90 minutes long, 9 exercises 30 sets, and 240 reps of ass kicking – quite literally.

Instead, I break down the workout into many small milestones. First, completing each exercise. Second, completing each set. Third, completing each rep. So instead of one giant goal, I see it as 280 bite size goals.

So my thought process after gearing up and showing up to a workout is to tackle the first exercise. As I’m setting up the weights, I’m thinking about completing the first set. As I start, I switch to thinking just about completing the reps. As I get closing to finishing the set, I’m focusing on just one more rep, and so on, going inch by inch to get the most out of it.

Once I have finished, now I’m thinking, “One set down, four to go.” And the cycle repeats itself.

The beauty of this procedural goal completion method is that you are able to build momentum quickly. If I measured my goal just by the completion of the entire workout, I would have to wait 90 minutes before feeling accomplished. Whereas, by setting up many milestones, just after the first exercise is completed, I have made 41 baby steps.

Those small successes add up fast and give you the push you need to get past the rest of the work – especially when the work is hard. While the above was outlined for a weight training workout, I approach martial arts training the same way.

Depending on where you train, sometimes the warm up can be the biggest challenge, which is why a lot of purple belts skip them, lol.

I know for wrestling style warm ups, I would have to psych myself up and just tell myself if I can get through the warm ups, the rest of training will be a breeze. Then we get to technique instruction, which I then focus on getting all the details as best I can and executing.

Afterwards onto drilling, which can be difficult and monotonous at times, so it requires extra focus to be effective. If we are doing 100 reps, I focus on completing 1 rep at a time, setting milestones for each 10 I have done. Sometimes I will think of the percentage done (if it’s favorable), to help push me over the edge.

Then we have sparring. This is naturally broken up into rounds, which is an easy way of focusing output on. Depending on my focus, my goals can vary. If I’m experimenting, my goal maybe to execute a particular game plan to the best of my ability. If I’m focusing on competition, then it might be to fight my best game and go for the kill. Whatever the focus, the goal is defined each round. But within the round, we have goals as well. If we are standing, I’m looking to score a take down. If I’m in his guard, I look to pass. If I’m on bottom, I’m looking to sweep, submit, or stand up.

As you can see, there are a lot of ways you can break up a giant leap into baby steps, that are less intimidating, and easier to build momentum off of. Having these small goals also better guide you to the proper path to completing the large goal, as by setting them, you have defined the path to execute them in an easily understandable way.

While we often hear champions talk about how they had the goal of being a UFC champion from day one, what we don’t hear about is all the baby steps they made along the way. If you just had that goal by itself, it would seem near impossible to complete. There are a myriad of ways of getting there, with most of them leading to failure.

But I can bet my house they each of these champions had set up a bunch of milestones along the way. First, they had to get the training in to become great. For some of them, the first steps might have been:

  • Get to a blue belt or equivalent experience
  • Win their first amateur tournament
  • Get their first sponsor
  • Get picked up by a major team
  • Go professional
  • Get picked up by a regional promotion
  • Win a regional title
  • Get scouted by a major promotion
  • Get signed
  • Break the top 15
  • Become a top contender
  • Become the champion

That’s just a basic goal break down from a bird’s eye view. Each one of these goals has 100’s of baby steps in them. That might seem like a lot of planning, but if you want to succeed, being prepared is step one.


What do you think? Do you agree or disagree?

Comment with your take on this. And if you like this article, please do me a solid and share it with your friends. Thanks!

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