You've been in the game for a fair amount of time and you tick all the boxes when it comes to being a competent athlete, but you’re still not satisfied. You have some worries about your form, don’t quite know how to figure out if you’re doing it right, but you don’t have access to a coach. In a nutshell, how can you confidently learn or refine skills on your own, without risk of injury?
The art of learning can be broken down into three stages - the awkward stage, the confident stage and the proficiency stage.
To get from stage one to stage three requires making mistakes, learning from them and trying again. However, it’s easy to get discouraged and feel like you aren’t making progress. How do you successfully manoeuvre your way across the stages?
Humans learn by nature through mimicry. Watch (more experienced) others perform the skill, see if you can identify what they are/are not doing, and try to emulate that. If you want to improve, you need to take the time to understand what is happening in both the foreground and background.
However, if you want to be your own coach, then you need to think like a coach and that requires you to troubleshoot and figure out what’s holding you back.
Record your workout sets and review the footage when you get home or even in between sets. Be your own worst critic. Videoing keeps you honest and allows you to watch for feedback after the moment execution and provides you with better insight while the memory is still fresh. The harsh truth about skill learning is that it’s never linear; filming yourself helps to mitigate this by exposing weaknesses and bad habits as they emerge.
Other than filming, one of the most useful ways is to give yourself feedback is by writing down a couple of words when are done reviewing your video logs. Physically taking note of your cues allows you to better internalise them, much like how daily reminders tend to stick better when you write them down and put them somewhere that’s easily seen. Go through these cues as you warm up, before your work sets and even in between them. Mental repetition is just as important as doing it physically!
Self-coaching can be a challenging and immensely rewarding experience. It’s efficacy rides on how brutally honest you can be with yourself, but the payoff is always worth the effort. Who knows – you might even discover a love for coaching in general down the road!