Project Par Week 5 Update
Didn't Practice, Got Better Anyway
Welcome Players! This week I barely practiced at all. I barely trained in the gym at all. I was drinking, staying up late, and way off my routine. But I got better this week. Read on to find out which South American country I went to and how a dip in the natural springs of the mountainside was everything I needed to get better, without practicing.
Training Week in Review
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Training Week in Review
This week I spent 4 days in Colombia celebrating my girlfriends birthday. We had planned this trip a while ago and were looking forward to exploring everything the South American country had to offer. We had a full itinerary full of tours, events, and nightlife that we enjoyed to the fullest.
I had no intention of letting Project Par take priority over this aspect of my life. Being present to participate in the culture of another country and soak in all it had to offer while celebrating her birthday was the most important thing to me. And I’m happy to say that’s exactly what I did.
We toured a small coffee Finca (farm) ran by a local man and his family. They took us through the full process from planting a seed, growing the tree, picking the fruit and cracking the seed to get the bean, washing, drying, and sorting it until eventually roasting the bean before finally grinding and brewing what we know as coffee.
It was an amazing experience!
We hiked through the Colombian mountainside along a natural spring water ending up at a waterfall where we got to swim in the ice-cold water. It was an amateur/easy hike in difficulty but for a couple beginners like us certainly provided enough challenge!
We climbed 700 steps to the top of El Peñón de Guatapé, a natural rock that towers over the city of Guatape and provides amazing views for miles in every direction.
We met locals, ate, drank and exchanged stories learning about their way of life. I practiced my Spanish, although was unsurprisingly dubbed el gringo from a mile away. We learned about the history of Colombia, the damage inflicted from the war between drug organizations, guerrilla fighters, and the government and how it was the local bystanders who were caught in the crossfire suffering the most.
Most importantly I spent time exploring a new country with the person I love. No project or goal I set is more important than that.
This serves as good a time as any to remind you that while I think it’s important to set ambitious goals to find out what we are capable of achieving - the true joys of life are found in experiencing new things with the people you love.
As you can see - 5 days of no habits while traveling.
Wins: 40 putts on the first day and a good amount of repetitions practicing my backswing off of last weeks goals. Was happy to get those in before leaving.
Losses: None! I knew practicing while traveling wasn’t going to be realistic if I was to fully enjoy the experience so I released myself of any obligations to try and practice. It wouldn’t have been possible anyway.
In order of day completed I did the following for physical training:
RT session - travel
Rest - travel
Wins: It was a very active trip! We went on a 3-4 hour hike through the mountains where we ended up at a natural waterfall. The water was freezing cold (natural springs) which was perfect for an cold plunge! I spent about 5-10 minutes submerged in the water and reveled in nature. The day after we climbed La Piedra, a giant rock in the countryside that totaled ~700 steps. That was a great workout without having to necessarily be a “workout”. Unfortunately there was no gym access where we were staying so the hike and the climb counted as my conditioning days and I was pleased with my fitness levels. Definitely did not take a step-back physically while away.
Losses: Leading up to the trip I was planning on getting a training day in all three days. I should have expected things to go awry as I had to prioritize work tasks and trip preparation before leaving so unfortunately I didn’t get to train those two days. Planning further in advance would have avoided that.
The three main physiological metrics I track are Heart Rate (HR), Heart Rate Variability via rMSSD (HRV), and Sleep Opportunity (SO).1
Quick legend: Gray bars are daily scores, blue line is trend line, and green range is moving average.
I actually responded a lot better than I had expected. Between the travel (jet-lag), the activities, change of routine, new food, drinks (alcohol), and abnormally timed caffeine I would have thought my HRV to be subdued for a longer period of time.
What actually happened was a 2-day hiatus away from baseline levels that followed the days of travel and activities. Then on the third day after the nature hike and cold plunge in a natural spring, I took a 2 hour nap. Even after going out that night I got a full nights sleep and woke up with a solid HRV and RHR. I think it was a combination of both being in nature, the cold plunge, and the nap that really helped reset my nervous system into a balanced parasympathetic state.
I wasn’t living life to control my physiology. I was living life to enjoy and took my measurements to see what was happening from a physiological perspective. This is one of the few times where the data did not affect my decision making at all. I was going to do all the things I wanted regardless of what the measurements came out to.
None! Aside from the few putts and backswings the days before the trip, there was almost no practice.
I’ll use this space instead to talk about why it’s important to sometimes not practice, and how it can actually make you better.
Improvement is a balancing act between practicing and resting. You don’t actually improve while you practice, just as you don’t actually learn while you read/study. Those adaptations actually come while you sleep.2
I’ve been working hard for the past 4 weeks. I’ve been dedicated to my training routine, consistent in practice, and have been taking care of all my physical needs to ensure adequate recovery. So why would taking 4-days off to travel in a foreign country make me better??
Because I wasn’t thinking about golf.
That might sound counter-intuitive, but it’s true.
I wasn’t thinking at all. I was doing! I was speaking a different language (albeit poorly so I’ve been told). I was in a different city, learning new directions, seeing new things. I went up mountains, into natural rivers, through the countryside. I met new people, experienced different things. All this is a novel stimulus for the brain and nervous system.
If you practice the same thing over and over and over again without variety your body will adapt and stop seeking new stimuli. It will get really good at the practicing, but will fail to carry over those adaptations into competitive performance. This is where the term “range rat” comes from in golf. Someone who is perfect while hitting balls on the range but doesn’t have that skill carry over onto the course when the environment is different and constantly changing.
The past 4 weeks of my skill practice were consolidated during my trip. The novel stimuli allowed my brain the freedom to process everything fully, to discard what is unimportant and to solidify what is important. Of course in the short term I’ll have taken a step back, but the important progress I’ve made will be ever-more sturdy because of the novel stimulus I experienced even though it had nothing to do with golf.
You can liken this to shocking the nervous system. Our senses are highly sensitive to everything: the more tasks we repeat, the less sensitive our senses become to that task. It’s our bodies way of conserving energy - creating and recognizing patterns that then become auto-generated so we can focus our energy on new or foreign tasks.
All my senses have been washed and refreshed. There’s no short-term pattern recognition they hold, they are prepped to soak in new stimuli because that’s what the environment I was in offered! I am confident this week of practice will be one of my best yet because of it.
And let’s not forget about the impact of happiness. I can’t speak highly enough about what it means to be to travel the world and enjoy all these new things with my girlfriend. The feelings it brings me surpass anything Project Par could fulfill, and it is for that reason that it will only help Project Par continue forward. The perspective of what it means to fulfill your potential relative to the important things in life just makes it easier for me to work harder without carrying stress of failure or inadequacy.
This doesn’t mean you have to travel the world in order to practice better. I’m just saying every so often, make sure you get out to a new environment and enjoy life, whatever way you feel is best. When you come back you’ll find your vigor renewed and your ability to improve supercharged.
Wrap-Up & Moving Forward
Overall, I had a great vacation.
I feel refreshed, re-focused, and ready to hit the ground running.
I’ll be falling back to my project game plan as I catch up on work and responsibilities.
Putting every night, range twice a week to work on chipping and pitching, and practicing my backswing pattern with the drills my coach gave me.
The best week of practice yet is ahead!