Let’s Talk about Reps, Baby!

July 7, 2019

Did you know it takes 10,000 repetitions of something before you become an expert at it?


Seriously. There are three stages of motor learning.


The first phase, the cognitive stage, requires attention and effort. Your body is attempting to understand something new. You’re either undoing old behaviors or acquiring new ones, so there will be lots of trial and error throughout this. Think about when you first learned how to do a raspberry. It was a hot mess. Your tongue barely vibrated against your lips, you were in shock that I was referring to it as “glorified mouth farting”, and you spit everywhere.


The second phase, the associative stage, is dedicated to refining the behavior. Now that you know what to do, you can focus on how you’re doing it. Going back to the raspberries, at this stage, you’re probably able to do it without the tool of “the goatee”. Now, maybe you’re working on both the upper and lower lip raspberry, and you’re working on being able to sustain it for longer phrases or more evenly throughout your entire range.


The third (and final) phase is the autonomous phase, the phase that you desperately want to get to when you’re feeling like a fool in the first phase. This is the one where everything is second nature. You don’t even need to think about it to be able to do it. Back to the raspberry- it’s at this phase where you’re probably trying to teach someone else how to do it because you’ve mastered that bad boy.


In Atomic Habits, James Clear says, “At some point, everyone faces the same challenge on the journey of self-improvement: you have to fall in love with boredom…if you only do the work when it’s convenient or exciting, then you’ll never be consistent enough to achieve remarkable results.”


So, readers, no matter if it’s perfecting the vocal raspberry or mastering a clear, legit High C or even responding with “you’re welcome” instead of “thank you” when someone thanks you at the end of your audition, remember that it takes 10,000 tries to get it to feel automatic. And that the repetition is what matters. It’s not about how good the work out was, necessarily, it’s about the fact that you showed up to the gym. Again. And again. And again.


How many reps are you willing to put toward your success today?

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