How To Never Waste Rep

I want to share a very useful tip that I was reminded of recently: Don’t waste your shots.

I know what you’re thinking, but this isn’t a metaphor for living for the moment or seizing your opportunities. This was a very literal lesson that I learned recently at a shooting range.

Over the last few months, my wife and I have been trying something new. Sometimes we go trap shooting. If you’re not sure what that is, it’s a game where the goal is to blast a small clay disk into smithereens with a shotgun as it’s whizzing through the air at high speed.

Bear with me here….
Without getting into the back story (it involves a somewhat humiliating failed first attempt at Olympic trap shooting while on a vacation), we decided that getting some coaching would be a good idea. (It was.) Since then we’ve had the good fortune to work with the coach of Canada’s national team and director of the Trap Shooting Academy, Florin Marinache.

One day after some shooting, I asked Florin why we take such long breaks between practice rounds. I actually found this quite annoying. It’s a decent drive to get there and we only have a short time slot. I’d rather be doing more practice and less relaxing. This was the jist of his answer:

You can only sustain a hyper-elevated level of focus for so long. If you’re practicing properly, you should be hyper focused on your technique and you can only sustain that level of focus for short spurts. By taking long rests between rounds you can clear your mind, come back fresher for the next one, and maintain the highest quality practice possible.

Resting properly between sets lets you do two things.

  1. Put more effort and focus into each and every shot. That’s how technique and ultimately results will improve most rapidly.

  2. Not waste ammo. After all, shotgun shells ain’t free. If you’re being an absent minded dumb dumb half the time, you’re more likely to pick-up bad habits and you may be throwing your money off the edge of the Grand Canyon.

Funnily enough, I had a mini-break through when I stepped up my level of focus on our next set.

So here’s the parallel to the fitness world: when you’re in the gym, don’t waste reps.

Every rep, from your warm-ups to your most challenging sets, is an opportunity. Beyond the physical work that you’re putting in, it’s a chance to practice a skill. If you do that with real focus and intent each and every time, then you’re going to get better faster.

So next time you’re in the gym, ask yourself: what am I going to focus on in this next set?

You should always have an answer to this question. Otherwise, you’re not getting the most out of your time and energy. Each set and each rep should have a purpose. Find it and practice it every time.