In line with the discussion about the difference between the comfort zone and the danger zone in training, these last few months have given me a lot of time to think about what and how to practice. After almost a year and a half off from serious shooting and a couple of arm surgeries, I’m getting to re-experience building up fundamentals. And in the process I’ve made some mistakes and needed to adjust my methodology accordingly.
- Some practice sessions were dictated by speed. Every time I was successful at a drill I would reduce the amount of time I had. I kept trying to be faster and faster.
- Other sessions were dictated by technique. While I didn’t purposely go slowly, I didn’t go any faster than I could execute technique properly. Everything was self-paced.
The results were very straightforward and I doubt they’ll be a surprise to most folks. Practicing good reps was more beneficial than practicing fast(er) reps.
Yes, some of my “personal best” runs during the experiment all came from the Go faster! sessions. But so did some of my worst because I was making more mistakes. I was failing to clear my cover garment, getting a bad grip on my gun, not getting an adequate sight picture, etc. Often, I’d walk off the range less prepared for an unfortunate occurrence rather than better prepared… which is obviously the opposite of the goal. In my rush to rush, I began forming bad habits.
The days I made sure I did everything correctly demonstrated measurable improvement from beginning to end and from day to day. My accuracy and consistency improved without losing speed. As I said, this shouldn’t be a big surprise. It falls directly within modern understanding of physical skill building biology (both anatomical and psychological). I was building good habits. I was programming the system to do it right.
I measured the days’ results by shooting the FAST. On the Go faster! days my runs averaged 8.26 seconds and I missed five head shots and one body shot out of nine runs; I had one Advanced, seven Intermediate, and one Basic. The nine runs from the self-paced days averaged 6.60 seconds and I had no misses; every single run was an Advanced time.
But — and this is important — the Go faster! days also had their place. Before I started this experiment my draw speed had plateaued. It wasn’t until I forced myself to go faster and break through that limit that I got anywhere. The trick was to use that method when it made a difference (breaking through the plateau) but not as my regular full time practice focus. That’s where the old saw “smooth is fast” falls apart. Getting smoother doesn’t make you faster. Getting smooth just makes it possible to push yourself to get faster. And when you’re pushing so hard you’re not able to do things smoothly (correctly), then you focus on that instead of trying to get faster and faster, wronger and wronger.
There was a time when I could put more focus into my speed because I could execute technique with a lot less effort given years (and hundreds of thousands of rounds) of practice. I’m not there anymore, though. My current ability — rather than my wishes and imagination — has to dictate my practice regime.
Train hard & stay safe! ToddG