The first time I stepped into the rink to attend roller derby practice, it took me ages. I vividly remember sitting in my car thinking of all the reasons why this was a terrible idea. There was a laundry list of reason why I would fail. But I looked into the gaping maw of uncertainty, girded my loins, and entered the rink anyway.
That was nearly 9 years ago.
The first time I set foot in a gym with the intention to do more than just casually exist on a treadmill, my heart was racing up my sternum and into my throat. It was obviously apparent that I didn’t know what I was doing and surely someone was going to call me out for having the audacity to be there.
That was nearly 4 years ago.
There are still times when I’m trying a new skating skill or have an unfamiliar exercise in my training program, that I feel uncertain. But it’s rarely at the same level of discomfort that I experienced that first time.
So…what’s the difference between Prime THEN and Prime NOW?
You can make the argument that I have:
- more confidence now
- greater skill now
- improved strength and stamina
- increased familiarity with the thing
And that’s all true.
But I earned those things by doing the reps.
BECAUSE REPS MATTER.
The more often you do things, the better you get at them. It’s kind of like exposure therapy.
Eventually, getting out of your car at practice gets easier.
Eventually, training in the free weights section of the gym isn’t as intimidating.
It’s not because those things, by themselves, have actually gotten any easier. They’ve simply gotten easier for YOU because you put in the effort to do them consistently.
Repetition > Perfection
My first several new skater practices were about what you would expect. There was a lot of crashing into the walls as a means of stopping myself. More falls to the backside than I care to remember. And a lot of imperfection.
Of course, it was imperfect. I had never done it before.
And yet, over the course of a month or two, I had strung together a thousand imperfect reps into one pretty decent rep. Then it became about stringing together a bunch of decent reps into one or two good ones. Then it became about stringing together a bunch of good reps until they started becoming great (and, more importantly, automatic).
The same thing was true in the gym. My first reps felt stilted and awkward. My body wasn’t used to moving that way or pushing weight in that way. I wasn’t doing the reps unsafely, I just wasn’t doing them particularly well.
Over time, as my brain and body got used to the process, the reps got smoother, cleaner, stronger, and I got more confident in them.
It’s possible that, at any moment, I could have looked over at someone else doing the same reps much more smoothly with way more weight and let that derail me. In fact, there are probably times when that happened.
But my reps are not their reps.
My reps count for me. Their reps count for them.
And the ultimate truth is that you have to jump (or sometimes trip) over the hurdle of a bunch of shitty reps before you can start to execute good ones.
How to Cultivate Shitty Reps
The problem is almost never that we are TERRIBLE at something. It’s almost always that we are so afraid of being terrible at something that we aren’t willing to be terrible long enough to get good.
So let’s get terrible:
- Lean into the discomfort. If you face it head on, it dissipates more quickly. Knowing that something is going to be uncomfortable, understanding WHY it’s going to be uncomfortable, and then approaching the discomfort prepared for it is the fastest way to realize that it’s actually not that bad. Because it probably isn’t.
- Quantity over quality. At least at first. This might be the first (and last) time that you hear me say this, but the way you do your reps doesn’t really matter at first. Only that you do them. (Provided that you’re being safe.)
- Celebrate the small wins. Count EVERY REP DONE as a success, not just the ones you executed perfectly. Those shitty reps are building you a ladder that you’ll climb to better things.
Remember that shitty reps do not equal a shitty human being.
There are things in your life that you’re just awful at (Me? I hate drawing and I’m subsequently awful at it.) that don’t impact you at all. You tried them and decided they weren’t for you or you decided you didn’t want to try them at all.
Being bad at those things doesn’t detract from your worth as a person.
It’s easy to get caught up in the downward spiral of thinking we’re a garbage human just because we’re bad at something that actually matters to us.
You’re not garbage. You just have some garbage reps to do.
Get in there and do them.
MAY IS MINDSET MONTH!
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Love this article! Thanks for the insight.