Friday, September 04, 2009

Thoughts on Focus

Jon M. is one of the trainers at Potomac CrossFit.

In his blog (thankfully, not just workouts and list of things he ate today), he hit on an issue that dogs many instructors who teach complex topics with many interlocking skills.

Me: So, what are your goals…. what are you bad at?

Person: Well I really need to get better at running. And I am soooo bad at pullups and dips. I just feel so weak with barbell stuff, and I don’t even know how to snatch. Plus, I have to learn how to do the butterfly kip.

Me: And you graduated from Foundations when….three weeks ago?

I also see this, when an athlete is talking about their warmup: “I’m going to practice double unders for 10 minutes, do PNF 4 times a day, then hit some squat therapy. I’ll do the WOD, then I’m going to work on abs, double unders, and my pullups.”

Its the same problem, shown in two different ways. Anyone else see the issue here?

Did I mention that I was one of those 15 people he had that conversation with?
When performing instructional design, we try to guide the student through the appropriate skills in the right order to reach a particular set of (hopefully actionable and measurable) objectives.

In a corporate environment, these objectives are usually determined through various needs assessment processes. And, most of the time, the learner is not involved in goal-setting and objective creation. They are just expected to "learn it."

Personal endeavors require the students to determine their own focus. Define their own (hopefully actionable and measurable) objectives.

As a student, I'm finding this to be a much trickier task.

Do I focus on skills I have been exposed to and have a fighting chance of getting good at quickly?

Do I focus on brand new skills I've never seen before, much less done?

Should I go for bang-for-buck, even if it is something I suck at?

There is the pressure of watching those who have already mastered large chunks of the curriculum. Seeing the "goal" in action every day.

How did they get there? And how do I do that?

There is the personal expectation that you really should be "better" at this thing you are trying to do.

Nevermind that you haven't worked out in 10 years and the closest thing to a sport you've participated in has been fantasy football.

And this is where Jon's challenge lies.

How do you get your students to
1) Set goals for themselves
2) Focus on those goals when the environment has you doing so many other activities
3) Focus on those goals when the "end result" is, by necessity, self-defined.
4) Not be so overwhelmed by the lengthy list of things one "needs to get good at."
5) Get them to see that mastery is a "process." (...and this may be the toughest challenge of them all...)

That's a lot of responsibility he has to give to his students. And trust that they take it.

As a student in this, I find that the toughest part is deciding priorities.

Especially because I am not particularly good at ANY of the skills of this thing I am trying to master.

Trying to figure out how to get from here (old, slow, weak and generally out of shape) to there (old, not as slow, stronger and functionally healthy). Trying not to get discouraged when some woman 15 years younger and 20 pounds lighter than me lifts her bodyweight over her head and smokes me in the 800 meter run in the same 1 hour session without breaking a sweat. Trying to remember that it is all a process and a change that takes time. And lots of it.

I've decided that I need to focus on things that have the highest "bang-for-buck" in the long run. Which, in my case, is anything that prevents injury.

So, for my points of focus in this thing I'm trying to master:

- good running form (and not wheezing my way through workouts)
- pullups
- squat exercises and getting good range of motion

It may be more important to just let myself suck at some things for awhile. Anything having to do with a jump rope. Box jumps. Rowing. Being particularly "fast" at any workout. These will have to wait.

We'll see whether I have the right focus in the next 3 months....


I wonder if, as corporate trainers, as corporations, we are letting our students off too easy.

Are we giving them enough responsibility to determine their own goals? Their own priorities?


Jon M said...

Really interesting thoughts Wendy. I'll be curious to read your thoughts on the next segment I'm working on called "opportunity costs". It is basically going to explore the idea that if everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.

Wendy said...

I'm looking forward to that segment as well....

...and if you are unlucky, I may start pestering you about it at the box ;')