The Training Mistake You Don't Even Know You're Making (And How to Fix it)

During the offseason, guys often get in a workout rhythm. They start to do the same drills, with the same guys, in the same sequences over and over again.

When this happens, there’s a tendency to zone out. 

Our brain is programmed to conserve energy whenever it can. So once we get to a level of competence where we can do the drill while being on autopilot, our brain disengages. We become a workout robot and we stop improving.

Workout Robots go through the drills because that’s what they’re supposed to do...

They aren’t focused on each rep. 

They aren’t intentional with their training. 

They don’t make adjustments when a drill becomes too easy. 

They don’t recognize their mistakes as they happen and correct them. 

They don’t take notes when they notice something they need to work on. 

They don’t struggle and reach and persist. 

They train with the goal of getting to the end, not improving. 

The problem is that most people don’t even know they’re workout robots. They arrive at the gym, go through their training routine with minimal struggle and leave. All done on autopilot.

Pat on the back. Job well done. 

The Problem with Autopilot

When we go through drills without full concentration, our training loses its potency. Learning comes from pushing yourself just beyond what you’re capable of—what Daniel Coyle calls “the sweet spot.

You cannot train in the sweet spot on autopilot. Workout robots don’t reach the sweet spot because they train in their comfort zone. That’s why they can zone out and still complete the drill. 

How do I Improve My Focus?

It would be easy for me to just tell you to that concentrating is important and to go do it on your own. But I’ve got a tangible tip that helped me improve my focus and can help you too. And it’s very simple. 

Give yourself a focus score after each rep. A focus score is simply a number 1-5 corresponding to how focused you were during that rep. 

1: you were thinking about what you were going to eat for dinner that night and performed the rep on full autopilot.

5: is you were fully locked in and your entire world for that moment consisted of you, the ball, and the rim. 5’s are very difficult to consistently achieve. 

Be honest. This exercise is pointless if you lie to yourself. 

To start, just choose one drill to give yourself a focus score. Let’s use an example like sideline to sideline shooting. In this drill you run and touch the opposite sideline between each shot. As you're running to the other sideline after the shot, analyze your level of focus and give yourself a focus score. 

Bonus points if you say your focus score out loud.

Why Does a Focus Score Help?

1) You won’t be able to hide a lack of focus. If you find that you’re giving yourself a lot of 1’s and 2’s, it will be obvious. 

2) It puts a hard number on a difficult to measure topic. Instead of the vague goal to “be more focused,” you can say "I want to consistently be able to score 4’s and 5’s. during my training” As the saying goes, "what gets measured, gets improved."

3) You give yourself feedback. By forcing you to reflect on each rep after completing it you’ll start to get in the habit of giving yourself feedback. And feedback is crucial for rapid improvement

4) You strengthen your concentration. The mental effort required to reflect on how focused you were during each rep will strengthen your mind. It’s like doing a mental rep after each physical rep. 


Prepare Yourself

I guarantee you this will get mentally tiring very quickly. That’s a good thing. It means you’re training your concentration as well as your physical skills. 

This was especially difficult for me because I’m a creature of habit. Habits are great, but also dangerous. An over-reliance on habits can make you susceptible to becoming a workout robot trap.

Using the focus score helped me train my mind to concentrate during every rep and that, in turn, helped me get the most out of my training. It’s not easy, but it’s worth the effort.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Kobe that just about sums it up:

It’s not how much you practice, it’s how much your mind is present during practice
— Kobe Bryant