10-Sesson Approach to Training Prioritization

  • SumoMe

Reprinted:  Ten Sessions- Your Solution to Training Prioritization 

I got an email from Mike Hughes the other day (owner of Next Level Training, and the SIRT pistol design www.nextleveltraining.com) and he attached a spreadsheet of his weekly priorities for training.  It intrigued me because he approaches training much like I do, in a dedicated, prioritized manner.  I must admit, Mike’s approach is even more detailed than mine, and he is as driven as anyone I have ever seen.

My goal for this article is to simplify the manner with which you prioritize your training, motivate you to take the “ten session” approach, and help you streamline your training efficiency.  What is the “ten session” approach?”  Its simply a way that I approach my skill development over a weekly basis.  For the last several years working full time, raising a family, and traveling have really challenged my training methodology simply because I didn’t think I had the time to meet all of the challenges that I wanted to submit myself to.   To remedy this, I came up with a simple, and attainable goal called “ten sessions.”  What I am referring to is a block of time each morning and each evening that I will use to train one of three key areas: fitness, shooting skills, and combative skills.  With a morning and evening session five times a week, this adds up to “ten sessions.”  As a top competitive shooter, I know I need to spend a certain amount of time to stay competitive with the best guys on the circuit, and if that alone were all I had to focus on that would not be an issue.  Its not!  I am also a dedicated tactical trainer, and believe strongly in self-defense training for my own safety and that of family and myself.  Therefore, I also have to dedicate much of my training time to areas that will keep me “fighting fit.”

The ten sessions approach came to me when I decided that I would find blocks of time during any given week that I could fill with a training related activity.  If I accomplish all ten blocks during the week, I get a 100 (A+).  Less activity and I score myself just like in grade school.  Eight sessions = 80 (B), seven session = 70 (C), etc.  My goal is to NEVER get a D, and rarely get a C.  I really like to meet all ten sessions if at all possible.  The key to success is regular training, and keep in mind that these sessions do not always need to be an hour or more in length.  Some very effective training sessions can be done in fifteen minutes.  Some common excuses (I had), and solutions:

I have to get the kids ready in the morning

Solution: Get up earlier

I have to put the kids to bed at night

Solution: Stay up an hour later

I have to be at work early

Solution: Find another block of time (lunch time), or GET UP EARLIER

I think you get the point, I am not giving you some incredibly scientific answer, I am just prompting you to find a simple solution and dedicate to it.  I once had a conversation with Julie Golob at the Bianchi Cup, and was basically whining about how it is tough to find time to practice.  She didn’t miss a beat and asked what time my kids were in bed, and asked why I could not train then?  What time do they get up in the morning? Why can’t you get up earlier and train?  I had no answer, and no excuses.   It could not be truer that if there is a will, there is a way

My sessions are about an hour in length, but often times I cut that in half or less if I have time constraints.  How long do you have to train to effectively learn something?  Not long, and while I recommend blocking out thirty minutes at a minimum, a session could be effective in ten minutes if it were planned in advance, and you dedicate 100% intensity to it.  From a fitness standpoint, thirty minutes is plenty of time to get the job done.  If you don’t believe this, try a cross fit type workout, which will be short, and tough.  Crossfitters normally have a workout to do, and try to do it as fast as possible (for time).  Fitness sessions that are more than 45 minutes in length tell me that the trainee is talking or socializing more than training.

I really focus on keeping my ten sessions as productive as possible.  Rewind back to the email sent by Mike Hughes: one of the things that really stood out to me was that he had every session roughly planned for his week, and a way to track his plan vs. actual effort.  Why is this important?  Because anything that is planned is usually more efficient.   Having the ability to compare planned sessions to actual session is also of great use for future sessions.  If you continually plan something and fail to get he workout done, then it might be time to change the plan.  In respect to planning, we are talking about time here, an item that you only have so much of.   Do nothing that is of no use in your training sessions.  AN example here in my personal case is my cardiovascular training sessions.  I have an elliptical and treadmill in my garage for cardio training sessions, yet stopped using them almost entirely.  Why, because I need to work my combative skills sometime during the week, and my goal for cardiovascular fitness is to be fit enough to win a fight.  So I combined those two areas.  Now most of my cardio sessions are spent doing interval workouts working upper or lower body strikes on my heavy bag.

Prioritization is going to be a big key to your training.  My ten-session weekly approach looks like this:

Timeframe Training Focus
Morning (fitness/combative) 1.Strength Lower body 2.Cardio/Combative 3.Flexibility 4.Cardio/Combative 5.Strength Upper body
Evening (shooting skills) 6.Handgun Skills 7.Rifle Skills 8.Shotgun Skills 9.Handgun Skills 10.Rifle Skills

This is an overview of my week, and I have each session pre-planned to an extent.  I will fluctuate what actually occurs in the sessions based on what I have on my monthly schedule.  For example, if I have a big match coming up, I will be focusing on that, and might even shift all training sessions to that particular weapon system.  If I have a class that I have to teach that requires all the use of more tactical weapons and gear I will shift to those systems for a week in preparation.  The above schedule is my general training schedule (I am following it now because it is off/preseason for competitive events).

Most of you might be wondering how I can possibly afford to shoot 5 days a week with the price of ammunition.  I don’t.  My shooting skill training is largely composed of dry fire training in those sessions, and only about half is live fire.  I will increase my live fire training as an event approaches to get the timing and recoil control down.  The great thing about dry fire training is that it can be done anywhere (almost), and with very little equipment.  It is the ultimate in efficiency when it comes to improving my manipulation (handling) skill with a weapon system.   There are even times that I combine my dry fire sessions with a fitness session, and work intervals of dry fire and cardio vascular fitness.  For those of you who only have a combative (self defense) goal in mind, I highly recommend training with an increased heart rate.  The best way to do this is to set up an interval timer and exercises to get the heart rate up and then immediately do an interval of dry fire training.  You will find that manipulating the trigger, focusing on the front sight, and general manipulation skills will be harder the higher you heart rate gets.  This is excellent training!

Implementing this concept is your next step.  Here is what you need to do:

  • Find your 10 session’s blocks of time.  Figure out which blocks will work for you, and try to find blocks that are a minimum of 30 minutes each.  Remember that giving up T.V. or something else is probably a good thing in relation to your training goal.  Most of us waste a ridiculous amount of time watching T.V. or sleeping.
  • Prioritize your training.  Depending on what your end goal is, figure out what you have to do to reach that goal.  I break end goals down into performance goals (the performance skills that I will have to reach to meet my goals, and enabling goals (what I will have to do to develop those performance skills).  Remember that your ten sessions must train all areas required by your goal, and this will likely include fitness and maybe combative elements.
  • Plan your sessions.  Now you have the blocks of time when you will train lined up, and what your priorities are.  Its time to plan your sessions out.  This includes deciding if you will be using dry fire or live fire to train your firearm skills, as well as what fitness elements you might be incorporating in your training.  Some of your training sessions might include group sessions at things like martial arts classes, or a fitness gym.  My personal example is one session a week where I meet my training partner and work combative skills.  I count this as one of my 10 sessions.
  • Logistics.  Hopefully you are motivated, have scheduled your 10 sessions, planned them out, and are ready to execute.  Not so fast!  You will almost certainly need to figure out what logistical items you will need like ammunition, fitness equipment (keep it simple and functional), etc.
  • Execute!  Now its time to hit your schedule.  Plan your months in advance in accordance to the event you might be training for, and break down your week each week as soon as you are done with your last session.  This planning should take 15-30 minutes at the most and is well worth it.  Score yourself at the end of your week every week, and shoot for that A + each week.  If you miss a session or two, never get less than a C.  Accept that things are going to come up, and use the “short and efficient” approach to training.  Remember that training intensely for 20 minutes is as valuable as training for an hour with no focus.

In closing, I challenge you to use the 10-session approach to increase your training frequency and efficiency.  There is really no excuse for most of you, and don’t forget to stay solution focused at all times.  If there is a strong will, there is a way.

Until Then – Train Hard!

Mike S.

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