Skills Don’t Build Themselves

“Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong. ” In this episode, I discuss the parallels between learning, training, and applying military and fitness skills. If you want to perform your best during real-world operations or game day, you need to put the sweat equity both in the classroom and during practice as well. As the five-time CrossFit Games champion Mat Fraser says, “Hard Work Pays Off.” Here we go!

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As I continue my JCWS course, my mind started to think about the cycle of learning, practicing, and executing new skills. Some of the skills I’m covering in JCWS I’ve learned before and is more of a review, and other skills are brand new. Regardless, my experiences have changed since I first learned some of these concepts so I’m trying to take in everything with a fresh perspective and I’m eager to find the opportunities to use these skills.

We are gearing up for a campaign planning exercise (standard fare for this level of professional military education for officers), so I started to think about the differences in training and exercising. Naturally, when I hear the term “exercising” I also think about fitness. I started to think about the similarities between fitness and military skills, so this week episode covers those thoughts. Here are the data points:

Fitness Skills

  • Training – Activity that has measurable change. 
    • Applicable General Physical Preparedness (GPP) elements: Cardio, Stamina, Strength, Power, Speed.
    • When you learn how to perform new movement, you are training.
    • Measured progress in training can be seen in moving more weight, moving faster, or lasting longer at a given activity.
  • Practice – Improves nervous system performance. 
    • Applicable GPP elements: Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, Accuracy.
    • Practice includes purposefully executing skills learned during training and performing them more efficiently. In addition, combining multiple skills demonstrates an advanced level of fitness and athleticism. 

Military Skills

  • Training – Learning a new/previously established skill. 
    • These are provided through your technical schools and professional military education courses. 
    • Once you have completed the training, you have acquired new skills. Sometimes this results in certificates or other forms of documentation to formally document the completion of training.
  • Exercise – Testing known and unknown skills for efficacy. 
    • These are events where your skills are tested individually through courses as well as through military exercises that use artificial conditions in a controlled environment.
    • Performance is documented on test and exercise evaluation reports.

Across both fitness and military skills, the similarities include Education, Training, Exercising/Practicing, and finally the Application of skills in the real world. For the skills of fitness, application could be in the form a fitness test or a fitness competition. For the military skills, application is included in your day-to-day operations and your performance as a leader. In order to optimize your application, you must ensure your purpose in approaching skills from the beginning of this cycle is deliberate and focused. You can’t expect to just show up on game day and rely on pure talent to get through each situation. You might be able to get by, that’s no way to be a leader. Treat your education, training, and practices with the same amount of importance as performance. That way when game day comes around, you will have both the mental and phyiscal confidence to perform when things get tough or when your teammates are relying on you to get the job done.