Programming a Movement Practice: Should Vs Want

Handstands, rings, lower body training, yoga, locomotion, QDR, creative work, flows, conditioning, HRV training, prehab, rehab… 

Let’s be honest here: There is hardly enough time to do it all. 

First things first: you have to discard the ones that don’t really belong here. 

The ones you wish you could also do, but realistically, unless you stop seeing everyone you love and create a new diet based on chickpeas cans, you won’t have time for. 

One of mine, for instance, is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I really wanted to give it a try for a few months. But realistically, factoring in the commuting, this would mean sacrificing something else, and more likely than not another part of my current movement practice. Which, after assessment, isn’t worth it, for the time being. 

Then, you can separate the guided from the unguided practices. If you can be taught one of these, follow a class or be coached in-person or online, and if you are happy with the outcomes, then think no further – this one is taken care of. 

For instance, I was taking a lower body strength class last year for a few months. It was great, because it was my coach’s job to think about all the aspects of the program – loading, variety of exercises, intensity, deloading, recovery.

Yet that leaves us with the unguided practices – that is, your own movement practice that you are cooking using different elements you gathered along the way. 

Maybe it’s that handstand practice, which you prefer to do on your own, or for which there is no suitable class around (especially in pandemic times…). 

Maybe it’s that floorwork practice in which you mix a bit of your yoga background and elements you garneled on Youtube here and there. 

The common problem, with our self practices, is that they are usually harder to quantify, to frame and to program. We end up playing around, not quite sure of where we are heading, of whether or not we are doing things right. Which becomes frustrating. 

One good model I have created for myself and my online students is to think of this kind of training in terms of: HowWhatShould 

How I feel today and how this is going to affect my training. 
What I want to do. 
What should be done.

Because this is a self practice, you are more likely than not to be disappointed by it. 

Teaching is much easier than training on your own.

The reason is – we don’t set clear expectations over what we want to get out of it. And said expectations should weigh in two main components – pleasure vs grind. 

Let’s start with “What I Want to Do”. This asks what you actually enjoy in your practice, and should make sure there’s enough of it to get the reward out of it. Here, we can freely take the outcomes out of the equation. 

Comes then “What Should be Done”. If you have specific movement goals, such as a handstand or a complex acrobatic movement, or more generally getting better at improvising on the floor, you know that the result won’t be obtained in just one day. 

This is a long-term endeavour, a seed that needs to be watered on a regular basis to grow and blossom. With this enquiry, you will identify the drills, exercises, thought-process that you have to go through if you want to achieve your goals. You may realise, lucky you, that some of them superpose themselves with the things you wanted to do. More likely than not, however, there will be some items that “should be done” that you definitely don’t feel like doing. 

Let’s take an example. Floorwork is my self practice – it is only guided by me. 

What I want to do: Roll around pointlessly on the floor for a good 15 minutes. Practice some hand acrobatic movement, but no more than 5 reps per side. Research any concept that may come to mind in the process, take notes and record.

What I should do: Maintain some QDR practice for two movements I want to have in my usable terminology. 10 reps each side once a week seem to be enough. Expose nervous system to spine extension – Rotation into low and high bridge, 10 each side, seem to drive progress. Prehab shoulder. Structured Improvisation work – 5 sets of 5 minutes with analysis in between sets. 

Let’s finish with How I feel today and how this is going to affect my training. 

This is the crucial part of your thought process, because your plan is bound to fail if it doesn’t include the variability of our highly chaotic lives. 

Sometimes, you will just not feel like doing what you have put on your program. 

(If you are like me, it’s most of the time.) 

I want to do all I have on my Want list, and procrastinate every single item there is on my Should list. Heck, I may even want to do something else that wasn’t planned at all!

And I say you should leave room for that

While remembering:

There is a very fine line between finding excuses and listening to yourself. 

Of course, if you keep procrastinating session after session, and never cater to the Should list, you won’t progress where you said you wanted to. 

So there is an element of frequency here – you can’t really negotiate your way out of doing what you should do several times a week. If you find yourself doing that, then you may have to reconsider your goals, or wonder how other areas of your life deplete your willpower so much that you can’t muster the courage to do these few reps. 

All the while, remember to give yourself a break. If you have been procrastinating more than usual over the last few months, well, guess what – this is an unusual, stressful situation, and you are just human.

In a nutshell:

  • Get your priorities right. Only keep the movement practices that really deserve your attention.
  • Distinguish what you enjoy from what you should do. Your ideal session should have a mixture of both. 
  • Pay attention to How you feel prior to the session, and adapt accordingly. Some days you will feel like pushing through – good, go for it, go for more than you had planned. Others, you would feel like not doing what should be done. It’s ok. Do the minimum effective dose if possible, and if not, give yourself a break, enjoy your practice, and pay attention to the recurrence of this feeling. 

Ps: If you want help and guidance in programming your movement training, you can tell me more here.

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