Rewarding the effort, not the outcome

One of the books currently on my rotation is called two brain business by Chris Cooper had some interesting quotes that got my noggin joggin. In the book, Chris talks about a Tennis coaching legend (the name of whom isn’t really important and I can’t remember) who said when coaching kids or coaching, in general, he only rewards or praises the effort put forward and not the outcome of the effort.

Working totally in a sport where we are constantly aware of our performance (the weight on the bar and how it feels) this really got me thinking. As a coach, it is pretty hard not to reward the outcome when things are going well it is easy to jump on the bandwagon and heap praise on the person who is going well.

It is easy to also allow your focus to be dragged towards these people or clients and to not focus so much on the lifters who are just plodding along. The athletes or lifters who are struggling are also easy to focus on as they are clearly having problems but the ones who are just chipping away can get lost in the middle. I try and make a conscious effort to give everyone as much time as I can and to prioritize in sessions to where I think I can be most effective. But something I can’t say I have made a systematic effort to try and praise and only praise is the effort being put in.

I will always encourage effort (hell the whole gym encourages effort) one of the best things about the gym is that the whole place will stop to cheer on a big lift regardless of who the person is or how much weight is on the bar it’s the effort being put into the lift that attracts attention and encouragement. Pretty much every decent gym will do this tho and it’s not the effort that people make day in and day out.

The fight is won in the mundane everyday choices and not when it comes to the big moment.

Just like as it’s easy to get distracted by the lifters who are going well and setting personal bests week on week and it’s easy to get drawn to the lifter going for a big set, sniffing on ammonia and playing their song over the speakers nice and loud. It’s easy to not notice the good habits people are engaging in and to make sure you are praising and trying to instill these behaviors in the athletes and lifters. In fact, it can be easy to go the other way and take the piss out of the lifters who spend 20 minutes warming up and doing their prehab before they even touch a barbell.

It’s the effort that a lifter puts into warming up, practicing their cues rep to rep and making sure that they are trying to recover and prepare for training as well as they can that is going to make the difference in the long run. The going is going to get tough at some point in powerlifting you are going to get injured or the gains are going to slow down or even go backward for some periods of time. It’s in these periods of time when your good habits are going to get you back on the right track and progressing. The purely externally motivated person or lifter will probably get bored and then they will give up if they only find lifting heavier weights, getting praise from those around them and picking up shiny things at competitions. When the gain train grinds to a halt or even starts going backward then it becomes a lot more difficult to stay on it.

As a coach, this has gotten me thinking that I should start praising people for attention to detail and putting in effort regardless of what the outcome is because this is the process and the thinking that is going to lead to the greatest results. If you focus on your technique, work hard at everything that is put before you and try diligently to improve session to session, set to set and rep to rep then you are going to do well. The results really will take care of themselves especially in a sport like powerlifting where the external factors are few and far between you don’t have to worry about the weather on comp day and it affects on your performance.

Reward your approach not the outcome

When it comes to the day to day process of training, diet, and recovery it can be really easy to just latch on to the outcomes and to let them affect your mood. The outcome of your efforts can be open to external factors you might have done everything in your power to get ready for a workout, eaten well, slept well, warmed up well and really focused on making the weight move as good as you could warming up. However, for whatever reason, you aren’t getting the results you want from the workout. The weight isn’t moving well or you aren’t able to lift the load you wanted on the day. You can let that affect your mood and disregard all the good work you did leading into the session this is what an outcome focus will do to someone. You could have done everything perfectly leading into the session and for reasons may be related to your health (maybe you are coming down with a cold) you have a bad session and then you decide all of the work proceeding it isn’t worth praising you had a bad session so everything is shit.

If you focus on praising and focusing in on the good work you did around the training session, recovery work, how you approached the warm-ups, your technique during the lifts, staying in your box and doing the best you can at each junctor then you can take the wins. Sure you will acknowledge that you didn’t get the outcome you wanted from the session but you can put it down to an external factor or you can eliminate the things you know you did well and maybe find out some elements in training and preparation where you could have done better or that may have had an effect on the outcome.

By focusing on the good things you do and recognising them you become a lot more resilient to change and things going off course. You can then focus your energy more critically, constructively and more effectively. If you are emotionally tied up to the outcome when things go well you are more likely to chuck the baby out with the bathwater, change everything and change too much. When things are going well as someone who is outcome-focused you will not question anything even if there are things you could be doing better because if it isn’t broken don’t fix it.

If you focus in on the effort you are putting into each element of training then you are more likely to take motivation from the things you are doing well outside of training and in training and these things are completely controllable and influenceable by your own actions you can turn them around quickly if not instantly. Even if training is going well if you are focusing on the effort you are putting forward you might find areas, where you can improve on in and outside of training and these areas, might help to improve and compound your success.

In short, if you focus on the effort and reward yourself for being better at following processes you will end up stronger and healthier in the long run. You will also be able to weather bad periods of training a lot better and be able to identify the elements that lead to training being successful.


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