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One of the more interesting challenges faced by coaches in business or athletics is pulling a team out of a slump. We have all been there—successful, passionate, effective—enjoying that feeling that you will never lose again. Everything is working out, seemingly because of your influence, and efforts are unstoppable. Have you ever watched a basketball or football game when it seemed as if one of the teams just could not make a mistake? It is a thing of beauty to see such mastery in motion.

However, this type of run usually comes to an end. That same team, the unbeatable one that could not make a mistake, starts to make some—and in some cases many—mistakes. The previously unbeatable foe starts to slip, and the next thing you know, they cannot do anything right. Their performance drops, and their results suffer. In whatever context, the successful team or individual shifts to the dark side of performance, and it looks as if they cannot do anything right. This is what I mean by a slump.

This shift can take place in sports, sales, investments, management and even relationships. You might be interested in a short article by Sue Shellenbarger, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, titled “Resources for Pulling out of a Slump.” In this she discusses slumps and outlines some of the seminal work by psychologists and coaches who work in this domain.

In truth, all athletic, life, executive and business coaches deal with slumps and their counterparts, peak experiences. Of course, it is easy to figure out which of those we all prefer.
The interesting thing about this “peak and valley” idea is the actions we take to get more clarity. Actions creating empowerment and effectiveness are very similar to those that create more confusion and incoherence.

More about this later.

Larry LaPrade

Larry LaPrade is a professional trainer, workshop facilitator, speaker and coach with an intense passion for human excellence. Also known as the “Pushup Guy,” Larry regularly practices the principles of Mind Fitness in his own quest to break the Guinness World Record for most pushups in one hour.

I love to work out on Saturday afternoons. There is a certain pace to the day; it is slower, more relaxed – very few interruptions and I have more time to work on whatever comes up.

I would describe today’s workout as smooth, well paced with overtones of wrist pain and a hint of endorphins…a good vintage but not a great one.  I thought it might be interesting to explain the workout in some detail.

I did 40 cycles (sets) on the two-minute mark.  Each cycle has four segments: exertion, up transition, aerobic and down transition.  The exertion segment is when I do the pushups, and in the aerobic, I peddle a recumbent bike. Some days I walk. The up and down transitions are used to center myself and to check on my thoughts and feelings.

My cycles went like this: 2×60, 2×50, 3×45, 3×40, 5×35, 11×30, 9×25 and 5×20 for 1305 pushups with the bike resistance set at 12. For instance, the first two sets I did were 60 pushups each, followed by two reps of fifty and so on.

I used an iPod I loaded with a MP3 file that signals me with a chirp when a cycle starts; otherwise I hear silence. This frees me to concentrate on other things besides the time.  When I hear the chirp, I get off the bike and ask myself two questions.  If the answers to them both are positive, I drop down and do the set.

My goal is to do a perfect pushup every rep and that is not a simple goal.  Depending on the intensity of the workout and number of the set, staying mindful to form and movement can be interesting…like when you run out of air.  After the exertion, I stand up, make a positive statement about the set and climb on for more biking.  All this happens within the two-minute cycle.

Before I start the workout, I warm up for 10 to 15 minutes and after and cool down for 10 minutes…workouts can be somewhat long but that is relative.

I have designed many different workouts, some focusing on strength and others that focus on endurance, but I have several rules I try to follow religiously.  First, I never push out one more rep at the expense of form.  If I run out of steam before the scheduled number of reps, I stop, take a few breaths and complete the set.

Secondly I do not do one pushup unless I am properly warmed up.  I hurt myself once showing off by doing 100 pushups, sort of on a dare.  My shoulder hurt me for six months…great lesson.

Lastly, I am very attentive to the process and when I notice something out of order, I back off.  I would list this as my greatest strength…paying attention to what is going on.

This is the ten cent tour.  The full Monte is something else…stay tuned.

There is a process used in NLP ( called chunking.  It is a way in which we categorize information when we think and act.

We can use the concept of chunking in a number of ways, for instance becoming more specific to get more details or becoming more general to get a larger picture.  However I use it more often than not to go from the large to the small.

For example, let’s say you lost a bet with your best friend, the consequences of which you had to eat a car.  We can presuppose that your best thinking was taking a nap when you made the bet but none the less you’re stuck.  Here is where chunking might be useful.

You might find that the task of eating the car was just too difficult.  You know, thoughts like, “Oh my God what have I got myself into”, or “I will never be able to do this” or “that rear bumper is just too big to swallow” … that sort of thinking.  But if you were to reframe the project much smaller projects, ones that you could “Swallow” so to speak, you would have a much different perspective, one that is manageable.

We should pause here to remind everyone that this post is not about how to eat a car and please do not try it.  I do know that one person did eat what I remember to be a 56 Buick but still I do not recommend it no matter how cool it sounds.  And if any of my sons or nephews are reading this DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT.  Ok back to pushups and chunking,

Another example germane to chunking is what Confucius said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”    By breaking the trip down into small segments, working on that piece and then moving onto the next is an excellent strategy if you want to accomplish anything.  You also have to at least start the journey if you have any hope of completing it.

I mean, we are not talking rocket science here but it is a basic premise I hold central to this project – how can I break the pushup project down to bits I can understand, experience, and master, and just as important, how can I take action today, Saturday, March 28, 2009, to further accomplish my goal.

I’m laughing and wanted to add to that last sentence, “without having to do any pushups today”.  (Now that is funny).

Anything is possible if you break down the elements and components of a large thing into small enough pieces or tasks.  My methodology is to get a scratch pad and start brainstorming, breaking the project down to smaller pieces, breaking those pieces down to yet smaller pieces and so on….Chunking.

Next post I will share with you my actual work on this project.  You wouldn’t think that something as simple as a pushup has, according to my chunking process, over 40 different components….and those are the big chunks.