The million-dollar question and the fifteen/fifteen approach

December 18, 2017 Foresight Tactical

A few years back, strength coach Mark Rippetoe wrote a great article called “The Biggest Training Fallacy of All.”  The article contained an anecdote about tanning and an individual laying out in the sun for fifteen minutes on their back and fifteen minutes on their front for a week, after which they had turned a nice shade of brown.  Heartened by the results the individual committed to continuing this tanning regimen by laying out for fifteen minutes on their back and fifteen minutes on their front for a full month.  The million-dollar question is, what shade of brown is that person at the end of the month? 

Most people will answer that the person is a darker shade of brown but like Rip explains in the article, the stimulus never changed so the adaptation didn’t change.  The person remains the exact same shade of brown that they were at the end of the first week.

What does tanning have to do with shooting?  Well unfortunately a lot of firearms “training” is the equivalent of the fifteen minute back/fifteen minute front tan.  It reaches a certain level and stagnates.  People go to the range, and shoot the same drills over and over, session after session without ever attempting to drive improvement.  We know career firearms instructors who, while competent instructors, are no better shooters than when they completed their first firearms instructor qualification.  The reason being, a standard was set, they achieved it, saw that standard as an end state instead of the start point it actually was, and saw no need to progress any further.  

Worse still is the law enforcement phenomenon of having one or two day a year qualifications and calling them training.  It isn’t training if you don’t improve over time.  People don’t improve over time doing something once a year just like they don’t get a tan by laying in the sun for thirty minutes once a year. 

If you are happy with the level you are at now (this applies to any activity) there is nothing wrong with the fifteen/fifteen approach.  Enjoy mediocrity.  If you want to improve you need to realise that the fifteen/fifteen approach is a waste of time and ammunition.  You don’t get better at an activity simply because you want to get better at it (although wanting to get better is a start).  Progression doesn’t just happen by chance, you must make it happen by altering training variables and targeting the things you need to improve.  It’s a simple concept but one, that for reasons we can’t fathom, is extremely rare outside the elite in any field.  In the words of Trevanian “Do not fall into the error of the artisan who boasts of twenty years experience in his craft while in fact he has had only one year of experience – twenty times.”

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