Why the gamification of an MTB practice session can be an effective strategy for improvement
I decided to gamify my drills for high manuals. It wasn't exactly fun but I'm hooked for now
Last month I mentioned that I need to buckle down and examine the chunks for my boulder problem. One of those chunks is the quick extension of my arms and legs as I start to level out. Since that motion is also part of a bunny hop, I’ve decided to work on a smaller chunk, the hips-to-hands movement, before leveling out for a bunny hop. And a smaller chunk for learning that hips-to-hands motion is a stand-alone high manual. Screenshot of me from a recent practice session:
(I’ve not worked on improving my barely intermediate-level manual technique. Sometimes I can manual through one dip. A high manual is not needed for a typical manual. RLC’s Ryan Leech asserts in his Manual Master Class (I’m a coach for RLC) that it can be helpful to experiment with it to deepen your understanding of the connection between hip height & front wheel height.)
So this week, I decided to experiment with gamification by using it for my high manual drills. My rationale:
Don’t do “Drills.” Instead, Play Small, Addictive Games is Daniel Coyle’s Tip #19 in his book, The Little Book of Talent—52 Tips for Improving Your Skills
The term “drill” evokes a sense of drudgery and meaninglessness. It’s mechanical, repetitive, and boring—as the saying goes, drill and kill. Games, on the other hand, are precisely the opposite. They mean fun, connectedness, and passion. And because of that, skills improve faster when they’re looked at this way.
How do you make a game of something like a high manual drill? Coyle writes:
The governing principle is this: If it can be counted, it can be turned into a game. For example, playing a series of guitar chords as a drill is boring. But if you count the number of times you do it perfectly and give yourself a point for each perfect chord, it can become a game. Track your progress, and see how many points you score over a week. The following week, try to score more.
My simple approach was to make ten high manual attempts and count the number of times I was successful, according to my somewhat lax standards.
My first set of 10 was humbling. Knowing that I would post a video of the session made me nervous. (Practicing to perform is something I need to work on since it’s very different than practicing to learn.)
Here’s a 2-minute video of my ten attempts in which I use my hands for counting:
I got a few decent ones towards the end and scored 5 out of 10.
I took a break by doing fakies for 5 minutes and then did another set of 10. Here’s a 30-second video of that set (hand counting removed):
Again, I started badly as I thought I should easily repeat what I did on my last attempt of the first set. However, I finally got a little more locked in and got 4 in a row at the end for a final score of 6 out of 10.
I took a 5-minute break to look at the videos and then did a set of 10 manuals from a stop. (Why? Because it’s the same motion but with a slightly different challenge. Why might that be helpful? That’s a topic for a future post.) Here’s a 40-second video:
I scored myself 7 out of 10.
I can’t say that this first attempt to gamify my high manuals practice was fun. Maybe that’s because high manuals are still a bit scary for me, plus I felt the pressure to perform for the camera. But it helped my concentration, and I’m eager to improve my scores.
However, upon reviewing the videos of my game sets, I noticed two problems with my technique that I need to fix before I try to beat my score:
Forward crouch on the initial compression, lack of a sharp stomp vertically:
Rounded back and tucked head on the initiation of the jumping up/catapulting forward motion:
I’m unsure how long it will take to fix these two flaws. I may need help from two of my MTB practice colleagues, Jeff Neitlich and Pat Mitzel.
Since I’ve done the maneuver correctly in the past (I’ve regressed… gasp!), I think it will take 2-3 sessions over the next week. I will post an update in a week or less, whether the results are good, bad, or ugly.