Monday, April 25, 2011

How To Get Faster, Better, Stronger Using Kaizen

As I coach people on a regular basis, I see them over time improving their skills, strength, and conditioning. But a few improve so dramatically it's like watching a shooting star.

So what can you learn from these shooting stars? What is the secret to their achievements? Once again, it all boils down to kaizen, a Japanese word for "constant, never-ending improvement" I was talking with Dan Mayhew, one of my swimmers, after practice on Saturday. I had just noticed something in his stroke after observing him underwater for part of the practice. Keep in mind, I give stroke tips all the time to my swimmers, this is not uncommon. But what Dan said next is: "I'll add that to my comments file."

Yes, Dan keeps a list of everything anyone's ever said about his stroke. He also keeps videos illustrating the principles about his swimming stroke that he wants to improve on. He is constantly working on those elements of his stroke that he wants to get better. No surprise, over the years I've known Dan, he's gone from a back-of-the-packer who struggled with many aspects of the stroke (give the guy a kickboard and he could kick all day and not go anywhere) to swimming in one of our fastest lanes.

Luckily, Dan works for this cool new company called Vizme. They make it easy to encapsulate text, videos, pictures, and all kinds of information and media in something called a Token. You can share these tokens via email, Facebook, Twitter and all kinds of social media. So here's Dan's swimming token. As you can see, he has a comment file tracking everything anyone's ever said to him about his stroke, from lane mates to professional coaches. After that, he has links to all kinds of videos and tips that he's used to make himself faster.

This is the key to improvement in any sport - the active seeking of information. Then steadily applying that information to get better. My athletes who do this shoot forward in an arc of improvement that's awe-inspiring.

Here's how to harness the power of kaizen in your own sport:

Pay attention: Athletes around you frequently give helpful advice. Some people ignore this, and some get downright upset about it. Notice that Dan tracks it in his Comments file. Sure, perhaps all well-meaning advice isn't worth taking, but if you pay attention to it you may notice some common themes (you can see in Dan's notes that the dropped elbow keeps coming back to haunt him from many different people's observations).

Keep Track: It's hard to notice trends unless you're tracking them. If several people have mentioned something, perhaps it's worth changing or researching. You can use something as simple as a notebook or logbook, or something as cool as Vizme to track things you want to be working on. Otherwise, it's out of sight, out of mind.

Focus on One Thing At a Time: Pick something you want to work on, gather information (whether from your coach, a video, a seminar, an online training tool), and focus on it until you see improvement.

Don't Give Up: That  may seem like simplistic advice, but I think the one thing that derails most folks is simply throwing their hands up in the air when improvement doesn't come as quickly or easily as they'd like. If you work through the tough spots, chances are that the results you're seeking are just around the corner.

1 comment:

Penny said...

Love all the tips on harnessing the power of kaizen. Things I tend to slack on. Thanks