Will following the "10,000 hour rule" make you a top ski racer?

The 10,000 Hour Rule and Deliberate Practice

Put in your 10,000 hours of practice and you're winning World Cups. Easy, right?

The concept of the "10 year, 10,000 hour rule" comes from the work of psychologist K. Anders Ericsson, who studied the way people become experts in their fields. Author Malcolm Gladwell then brought the idea into the mainstream in his book Outliers. With a catchy rule of thumb that simplifies the mystery of expertise into achievable steps, all we have to do is go out and bang gates for 10,000 hours and Marcel Hirscher will have to settle for second place!

41ylBBBhYjLNot so fast. It turns out how you practice matters more than simply the time you put in. outliers

There is no doubt that in certain fields, especially those with a high degree of skill component, it takes a lot of practice to be successful. But what separates the great performers from the good is what they do as their practicing, a concept known as "deliberate practice". In their book, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, Ericsson and co-author Robert Pool use scientific research to explore this concept. Here are a few takeaways that any ski racer, or anyone working on improving at something for that matter, can apply to their own practice. 

Training to Adapt - How You Practice Matters

Our bodies and the nervous system that controls it is highly adaptable to the stress you apply to it. Training with purpose, whether in the gym or on the race hill, you are applying the kind of stress that leads you to improve as an athlete. With eachCopy of 2018-05-12_SKI_RACING_PMM_1365 run and repetition, you are both mentally and physically transforming yourself so that you can move with more strength, speed, and precision. Over time, these small adaptations can add up to major gains if performed with purpose. 

Rather than going through the motions aimlessly, take a minute to think about the quality of your focus next time you are putting your ski boots on. By pushing the boundaries little by little, focusing on every movement, and having a coach there to provide feedback, you are set up for maximizing your success. After all, we are what we repeatedly do so dig deeper, narrow your focus, rise to the occasion, and be present every time you kick out of the gate. You will be amazed at what you can get out of each session if you are consistently deliberate about what you put in. 

Skiing with Purpose is FUN

Because disciplined practice requires spending time outside your comfort zone, it may often feel like work, especially when putting in long consecutive days. Inevitably you will face tough obstacles and failures that require grit and determination to overcome.

You train all season for a race, then something happens to derail your training days or weeks before the event.  Your performance is sub-par.  You think of the hours, runs, and financial commitment to get you to the start gate and your first response is to think it was all for nothing, a waste of time.  However, it is never a complete loss.  Think about the Olympians in 1980 who dedicated their entire careers for that shot, thousands of hours of training, and then the USA boycotted the Olympics.  Was that 4 years a complete waste of time for those athletes?  Absolutely not.  Everything you have done to this point in your life has made you the athlete and person you are today.

With a growth mindset, weaknesses are seen as untapped potential, failures turn into learning opportunities, and best of all, the process is enjoyable. In the end, Erricson's research concluded that it is inherently fun to pursue deliberate practice and the feeling of reward it produces in our brains far outweighs any other. So whether it's 10,000 hours or not, commit yourself to the long journey of becoming your best, embrace the process of disciplined practice, and make sure to have fun along the way!


About the Author

Kris is SYNC CFO, a former racer who now sets the office Strava bar incredibly high on local climbs.