When to Quit a Skill

When it comes to training, especially if it’s part of your job, it’s pretty common to feel pressure to be the best at what you do. To show you’re capable of so much, and to be able to perform a variety of exceptional skills. As a result you want to train all the things at once, and it can be hard to find focus. Deep down you know that when you try to do everything, you end up doing nothing. Or you achieve very little. When you finally choose a skill or a goal it’s so exciting. Trawling Instagram or YouTube, or even on my Facebook newsfeed, something will pop up that I’m in awe of or I think it’s just really cool. There’s the new focus. I’ve had that lightbulb go off in my head so many times thinking I’ve found the exact thing I want to work towards right now, this very second. That’s the skill I want to learn.

When you’re right at the start of your journey you’re filled with motivation. It’s so exciting to be starting something new. But the honeymoon stage doesn’t last. As humans we tend to want instant gratification and having the patience to put the work in can be tough. We demand things from ourselves and create high expectations, including our progress with training. How many times have you had a bad training session and come away feeling deflated and discouraged? Rather than seeing it as time invested, it’s a waste of time. You question your choice in training goal and wonder if you should find something else. This is one of many reasons why people jump from skill to skill. Getting bored easily, dissatisfaction with progress, or lack of focus are all contributing factors. On the flip side, being completely obsessed with that one particular thing, that you push too hard, don’t listen to your body and don’t allow rest or time out is just as detrimental to your progress. But this isn’t necessarily the time to give up what you’re working for. A change in perspective can help greatly with reigniting motivation.

Things don’t always go to plan. You might have patience, follow your programme diligently and listen to your body, but you can’t account for injury or illness or a disruption to your progress. Something out of your control might interfere and force you to change course. At the beginning of the year I was working towards a muscle up. It’s a pretty cool skill to be able to perform, and I thought it was about time I make it my goal. I didn’t achieve it. I had good programming and coaching, and I put the time and effort into each session, but that wasn’t the issue. An old injury from several years before that hadn’t properly healed meant that I couldn’t pull through the transition on my left arm without feeling like something was about to rip in my tricep. Rest, massage, stretching, nothing helped. As much as I hated to admit it, this was not a skill my body was ready to learn. I could have persisted, I could have ignored the pain, but I could have also really badly injured myself. In this case, it was the time to let it go. This is an example of when it’s definitely time to change your training and move on to something more appropriate and beneficial for your body.

At GMB, the Support Team receive emails all the time from people sharing their goals. Sometimes about training, and sometimes about life. This was a goal someone wrote in that caught my attention and made me think.

“I want to have a very healthy and vital body that I have a great level of control over so that I can use it to live life to the fullest, play and have fun.”

Then I remembered to think about the bigger picture. Yes, we need direct and specific goals, but looking at the bigger picture made me think about what training meant to me in the first place. In the beginning it wasn’t to be able to perform X, Y and Z. I didn’t even know about X, Y and Z. I remember my first workouts when I started going to the gym and how good I felt about myself afterwards. How physically and mentally strong I felt, even though at the time I could barely do push ups on my knees. It felt like an achievement to be moving my body. Every time I trained it felt like progress because it was another session I’d started and completed. And that’s why I continued.

I wanted to think about what training really means to me. What it means to be able to move and have strength and control, and the freedom it gives me. There are so many things I can’t do. But what about the skills and goals that I have achieved? I am discounting them against everything I still can’t do. I don’t feel my training should be about that. It should be about staying healthy and having fun. If there’s something I can’t achieve then I need to focus on something else. It’s actually quite simple.

So does quitting a skill mean giving up or failing? No. It means moving on to the next phase of training whatever that needs to be. Everything changes, and you need different things at different times depending on the circumstances. You can’t always control your circumstances, but you can control how you approach them. Work with them rather than against them. It’s the same with your body. Work with it to give it what it needs. It won’t always be that one perfect skill you’d love to master. It might be something much simpler like rehabbing a shoulder, building core strength, stretching to improve posture and alleviate pain. Always remember you can revisit a skill you want to learn at a better time. You can always start something again. In the meantime do what you need to do, and appreciate everything you’re already achieving.


Photographer: Simon Carter