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Monday, April 6, 2015

When It Counts: How the Cycle of Behavior helped me pass the SFG Snatch Test (SFG Recert Reflections, Part I)

“You are
What you do
When it counts"
- Armor (John Steakley)

This past weekend, I completed a one-day re-certification course to renew my StrongFirst Kettlebell Instructor cert (SFG). It was a great experience, and I'll be writing a post about it separately, but I wanted to reflect on a bit of lead up, the snatch test, and how a piece of PDR/SPEAR methodology helped me get through the course.

When I originally certified as an SFG, the snatch test proved to be my greatest hurdle. Overhead mobility has never been my strong suit (still needs work), and my hands had a tendency to get shredded while working on it. I went through a lot of tape prepping for that first cert. So when I started prepping for the recert, the snatch test was a big focus of mine.

Everything seemed to be cranking along smoothly, if slowly (finding time to train with a brand-new baby in house is challenging), but I was getting there. My numbers were improving, all my other technique felt strong.

And then, one morning, I decided to squeeze in a quick workout and wrenched my back, badly. Walking suddenly became a challenge, never mind swinging a kettlebell around. About the only comfort I had was that, having idiotically done things like this before, I knew with motrin and rest, I'd be back on my feet before the cert.

But could I get pass the snatch test still? Would my back hold out? What if wrenched again?

I started sliding into the FEAR loop.

If you're not familiar with the FEAR loop, go check out this article on the Cycle of Behavior, then come back. This post won't make sense otherwise.

Two weeks later, I felt a lot better, and, with a week left until the cert, decide to retry my snatch test. Of course, I did this after teaching a three hour seminar, not eating or drinking anything but coffee since breakfast. So not surprisingly, my performance was sub-par. I gave it another go on Monday, again, with not nearly enough water or food in my system, and with similar results.  I was close, but not quite there.

Now the FEAR was getting pretty bad. I started visualizing failing. What that would feel like, what it would mean.

So I went back to the Cycle of Behavior.

Step one: the way out of the FEAR loop is through the challenged or threatened door. I was threatened...I got challenged. Yes, I had missed the snatch test, but that was practice. I could rise above my performance on game day. I started seeing it as an opportunity to rise to the occasion, and to demonstrate how much mindset can matter in a high-stress situation.

GAR: Goal- Pass the snatch test.
Action - Get it done.
Result - Pass


My plan came down to two parts.

Part one: make sure I am well hydrated, have eaten well, and am fully awake for the snatch test.
This was actually relatively easy, since the test occurred in the morning. All I had to do was get up, have breakfast, and I was good to go.

Plan part two: don't stop.

While the snatch test rules allow you to put the bell down as often as you like, I found that if I stopped, I had a hard time getting going again. Where I lost time was on the stops. So I decided that my plan for passing was going to simply be...don't stop. Ever. Keep doing snatches until I reached 100, no matter what. My usual strategy is to do 10 right/10 left until I reach the end, but I was going for ANYTHING, as long as I was added reps and, more importantly, not stopping.

The Plan In Action

The morning of the SFG recert, my stomach felt awful. No idea why, but it did. Still, I ate, drank, and got some good coffee in me (always important), and then went to the cert. On the drive over, I reviewed my plan, visualizing the test, including the burning lungs and unpleasant sensations in my stomach. Most importantly, I visualized not stopping. Ever.

I volunteered to be part of the first group of test candidates, because I like getting these things over with. As I was setting up, the time keeper said "go", and like that, I was off.

Internally, the test went something like this:

Rep 10: feels good so far.
Rep 20: and that side feels good too.
Rep 40: lungs are burning. Just get to 60.
Rep 60: let's see if I can get to 80.
Rep 80: hell, there's just twenty left.
Rep 90: just ten on one arm. Easy.
Rep 100: wait, really?

(Seriously, my count was off. I was actually startled when the 100 count was called).

And like that, the snatch test was done, and I passed. In what I think was record time for me. It was actually easier than expected. I even had a moment where I asked my counter to repeat her count, because I misheard her. I was that...relaxed? Not quite the right word, but I felt comfortable doing it.

I've always held that the Cycle of Behavior is one of the most powerful and important tools that we have in the PDR/SPEAR system, precisely because it has such wide application. It was nice to get a chance not only to use it, but to experience it's power in a visceral, immediate way.

It also reminded me of a valuable lesson, one expressed in the quote above, but in other places as well. What you do in practice matters, a lot, but at the end of the day, the only thing that counts is how you perform when it matters. Or, as the BTS logo used to say "In combat, only the result counts."

More on the course itself next time.


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