Deliberate practice is hard. Sometimes, you can cheat that difficulty by finding a reliable expert who has written a how-to guide, and following the recipe exactly. This is an extension of the notion that you should find user-friendly instruction if possible, and was stolen blatantly from Lyle McDonald at Body Recomposition.
In his entertaining rant, Lyle says,
…for the first year of training with him, I did everything he said exactly as he told me to do it. He was the expert and regardless of what I thought I knew, I had hired him for a reason. In fact, I didn’t even know enough about ice speed skating at that point to have an opinion. As they put it in martial arts training, I shut the hell up and swept dojo.
Often, a reliable expert’s walkthrough will essentially cause you to emulate a regimen of directed practice, but all the thinking has been done for you. So you just have to commit to walking over to your DVD player every morning and pushing play or opening the book and doing as you’re told. This is really valuable, both in the immediate sense of making gains in whatever topic you’re learning, but also in a subtler meta-sense; this “guided directed practice” builds intuition about learning new skills in the extra-curricular environment. After you do a few practice runs of learning new skills by having your hand held by the experts, you’ll get a sense of how credible instruction and steady skill building feels.
Examples of reliable expert walkthroughs for fitness:
- Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength book and videos (for making you strong)
- The P90X program of fitness DVD’s and diet (for giving you beach muscles)
- Lyle McDonald’s Body Recomposition website (for making you skinny ripped)
- Juggling for the Complete Klutz
Does juggling count as fitness? Definitely not. But it’s a great low-risk skill for kids, and this is the book that got me started on the growth mentality and Kaizen, so it has a special place in my heart. And it’s really, really good at teaching you how to juggle. Which is incidentally a pretty good starter skill for building momentum on the whole business of learning new things, even if you’re a grown man.
Ultimately, borrowing experts’ ideas is a time efficient hack for discovering domain-specific best practices. When beginning a new discipline, such as fitness or juggling or whatever else, it’s almost always worth starting under the auspices of some formalized progam if possible.