Workout of the Day

Practice, Practice Everywhere


When’s the last time you spent time in the gym (or outside the gym) engaged in the act of practice? Yesterday? Last week? Never? This is a bit of a trick question, as practice can take on quite a few forms. Honestly, I would argue that we practice (in some sense of the word) every day we’re in the gym. Now, chances are, you don’t show up to work in the morning talking about how you did at your morning practice session, or leave work at the end of the day telling your coworkers that you’re headed off to practice. We tend to view practice as something reserved for either children or competitive athletes. But, in many ways, what we do in the gym is practice.

I’d like to address the idea that practice doesn’t always look how we expect it to, and that it’s pretty much everywhere if you look closely enough.

To start, we of course have our pre-determined “practice” time. This looks like skill sessions for gymnastic movements, skill-focused instruction and performance in Olympic movements, running and rowing, etc. This is the easy stuff, the obvious time to focus on practicing our skills. The clock is stopped, there is no pressure to set records or move large loads, and the outward-facing priority is to get better at a skill. But what about the rest of what we do?

Practice is as much a mindset as it is a specific structure or style of activity. We generally distinguish practice as “off the field” time spent putting in repetitions, focusing on the finer details of performance, and breaking movement down into its simpler parts. We have visions of football players, separated by position, running specific drills, or of swimmers doing lap after lap of various drills to improve their stroke. But I think it’s a bit absurd to suggest that it’s only practice when we explicitly say the focus is to practice skills or work on form. I think it’s absurd to suggest that “on field” time does not afford us practice as well. If anything, time spent on the field -- whether this be a literal field of play, or just time spent in competition with ourselves or others -- is one of the most powerful teaching opportunities. The lessons that we learn in the process of pushing boundaries and “going for the gold,” so to speak, are the type that can’t be learned in the controlled environment of traditional practice. (Interesting side note: research in motor learning and pedagogy has provided evidence that skill acquisition, retention, and transfer in nonlinear pedagogy, in which students learn and practice in game-like scenarios, are significantly greater when compared to more traditional practice structures). Every time we approach a performance test or challenge, whether it be a max effort snatch, a timed run, or a championship soccer game, we are given an opportunity for practice. We are given a chance to perform at our highest level, observe outcomes, analyze, and synthesize this information in an effort to improve. Of key importance is recognizing that these reps, regardless of context, are indeed practice. In the back of our minds, we should consider that every rep is a chance to improve, to make the following rep just a fraction of a percent better than the last.

In the same way that practice can be found in the high pressure and high threshold performances, practice can be found in the most mundane and low pressure performances as well. Consider the number of warm-up reps that are performed in an average week. We perform reps of various exercises as part of a general warm-up, we perform specific skill-transfer exercises as warm-ups to complex movements, we perform warm-up repetitions as we work up to a maximal effort. Each of these reps is an opportunity for practice as well. While we certainly can get away with mindlessly coasting through the overhead squats with PVC pipes, the warm-up runs and rows, the Olympic lifting warm-up drills, the kipping drills, etc., we do ourselves a disservice if we don’t recognize and take advantage of the huge volume of practice that this provides for us. Though these exercises may not use the load required to challenge our form or involve the metabolic demands of a conditioning workout, they still provide us with extensive opportunities to perform repetitions, experiment with movement, and observe and analyze.

The crux of the issue is the importance of attention and purpose. The exact same work may be performed by two different athletes with different attention and purpose and they will each get something entirely different from their time. I’m a big “bang for your buck” kind of guy, and honestly, I don’t see why you’d want to do all this work and only get partial results from it. Tune in and get what you came for.

See you all at practice.

- Preston Sprimont


  • Spend 10 minutes practicing handstands

  • “Helen”

  • 3 rounds for time:

    • 400m run

    • 21 KB swings (53/35)

    • 12 pull-ups