Lessons from 2011…

Being the last post of the year I wanted to reflect on some of the big lessons and take aways I had from 2011…

#1 – Do less stuff and do it better. I got deeply immersed in the kettlebell culture in 2011, attending an RKC course and reading a half dozen or so books on kettlebell training. While everyone likes to show off their fancy kettlebell lifts, one of the central themes among the best is the mastery of a handful exercises.

The Swing, Goblet Squat, Turkish Get Up, Clean, Shoulder Press, Snatch and their variations comprise the bulk of kettlebell training and cover almost everything you could possibly need. I cut out a lot of fluff from my workout programs and hammered people with the basics and saw a marked improvement in execution, strength levels and overall results. You just have to get past the “entertain me” mindset and have a “train me” mindset to appreciate doing the same thing over and over.

#2 – Read more. The best investment I made was in a Kindle. I had started reading more a few years ago but it wasn’t until I was able to instantly download books and easily carry my library with me that I really started to read a lot. The secret to reading is making it convenient and so the Kindle app on my phone and tablet make it amazingly easy to read a few pages here and there which add up to several extra books a year.

Here are some of the best books I read this year:

Easy Strength: Pavel and Dan John

– Purposeful Primitive: Marty Gallagher

Convict Conditioning: Paul Wade

– The 10X Rule: Gant Cardone

– Kiss or Kill: mark Twight

– Ultimate MMA Conditioning: Joel Jamison

– Sugar Nation: Jeff O’Connor

– Mind Over Money: Brad Klontz and Ted Klontz

– Little Bets: Peter Sims

– Live Life Aggressively: Mike Mahler

#3 – Bodyweight training needs a place in your program. The book Convict Conditioning completely changed my view of the importance of bodyweight training. I realized that I had been paying lip service to the notion of “master your bodyweight before adding load” – I was far from truly mastering bodyweight and the exercise progressions outlined in the book made that very clear.

I realized that strength training is as much about handling your own bodyweight as masterfully as you can handle an external load. I also realized that some exercises, like the bridge and handstand presses, were really vital to overall fitness and health. Your body responds to bodyweight training differently than weighted training and it needs a place in your program.

#4 – Energy Systems Development is a much better term than “cardio”.  In the book Ultimate MMA Conditioning Joel Jamison does a masterful job of laying out the concept of Energy Systems Development (ESD). I have often said that you don’t want “cardio”, you want better endurance and ESD is how you can systematically develop better endurance. By understanding how your body both supplies fuel and utilizes that fuel for different types of efforts you can develop a plan to optimize both.

I’m sure I feel this way every year but 2011 was a great year overall. I came into the year knowing that I had a few holes in my game as a strength coach and I did a pretty good job of shoring them up and seeing my programs evolve as a result. Of course, now I have some other areas I want to work on in 2012 but I’ll worry about that next year.

So, what were some of your big lessons/ take aways from 2011?

-James Wilson-

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  1. Jayson says:

    You and Lee McCormack have brought me to the realization that I am weak and suck at riding. The kettlebell training has greatly improved my strength as a firefighter and my overall confidence in riding. Your training has improved my on the job performance and safety as well. I live in Florida and rode my first true mountain trail this year. All the training I did added up to a great ride. I appreciate all of your training tips and look forward to 2012 riding.

    Reply • December 30 at 9:10 am
  2. Joe Somontan says:

    I started officially mtb’ing in August. Never ridden any trails; just paved roads doing about 10 miles a day. I thought I was ready for trails. I decided to buy new full suspension bike with clip pedals(never owned any clips or a full suspension). I thought mountain biking would be straight forward. Boy was I wrong. Unfamiliar bike mixed with unfamiliar pedals with unfamiliar landscape and the science to mountain biking on trails equaled near disaster. I’ve done some serious falls, luckily I didn’t break anything. My right knee and left shoulder is still healing but didn’t let that stop me from riding. I finally went to platform pedals after some advice from my cousin that just started riding with me and the what I read from you blog on bare-feet running and it also applies to biking. My riding has shot 10 fold. I’m a better climber and down-hill rider. Anytime I fall, I make it a point to analyze(on the spot) what went wrong and do a do-over if possible. If not, I make it a point to go back and ride that part of the trail again. So here are my lessons:

    1. Don’t work hard; work smart.
    Try to learn from the fall or mistakes made and make sure to do it over. I’m still learning this sport, and I went over bars by missing a jump on this trail. I analyzed it and tried to do the jump but was too scared, so I took the safe route and rolled off of it. I came back a week later and jumped it! What a great feeling!

    2. Just like James says, don’t learn too many things.
    Don’t try to be a super-hero and think you’ll get everything. Some people can do this. Master a skill or two.
    Don’t be like me and do it all at once.

    3. Never give up; never surrender.
    We all have our learning curves and weaknesses. But if you are persistent, you can one day ride like your friends or better. On climbing, I’m equal or better to my friends. On the downhill, I’m still working at. But, I know one day, I’ll catch up to them.

    2012 Goals for me:

    Learn to do bigger jumps
    Learn to go faster downhill
    Learn how to bunny hop over 3 feet across
    Buy or build a All-mountain bike(October/November)

    I pray and hope 2012 Goals will be fulfilled.

    Cheers and Happy New Year!

    – Joe

    Reply • December 30 at 9:58 am
  3. Great post James! I enjoyed being a part of your clinic and the visit to Fruita was truly something I will remember and plan to do again! I would like to share some 2012 goals I have with you.

    1. get 100% over this knee injury (yeah he is STILL hanging around)
    2. ride more, lots more
    3. gain my lost confidence since my knee injury
    4. concentrate on proper movement and technique when doing my James Wilson Ultimate Strength Training that I learned in the clinic
    5. come back and HIT THE RANCH!

    Reply • December 30 at 10:43 pm
  4. Phil says:

    2011 has been a pretty eventful year for me. I started the year off with Lee McCormacks book and then found out about your workouts and began them. Later in the year I attended one of Gene Hamilton’s clinics. Needless to say it was a year full of new information much of which I was able to put into practice. I feel that I found the direction I have really always wanted to be going with biking. I have respect for other types of biking but I prefer the more pure form of mtn biking and I offer my thanks to you for being an important part of helping me realize this. One of the biggest lessons I hope that I learned is to increase my skills and fitness in steps …baby steps. I have a problem of seeing something I want accomplish and trying to perform it without first building the skill up from basics. I have paid the price for that several times this year even though I knew better. Like I used to tell my kids, ” hard head makes for a sore backside!”. The fitness I gained from your workouts did make me bounce better and helped me accomplish many of the skills I wanted learn as well as helping me out in my work. Thanks for everything this year and I hope 2012 will be a huge year for you!


    Reply • December 31 at 7:45 am
  5. Bob says:

    2011 was my first race season, elite, it went relatively well but I learned just at the end of the summer to relax during the race weekend, don’t drink too much beer, go to bed early, eat well but not too much, pin it for the win.
    My goal for 2012 is to win races and be picked for world cup(maybe) races the next summer. Happy new year everyone!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply • December 31 at 1:23 pm
  6. John K. says:

    The big takehome for me this year was from a James Wilson podcast: don’t be tempted to progress too quickly. I applied this to my focus for 2011: dirt jumps. Instead of doing well off a small jump 2-3 times and then moving on to a bigger jump, I spent a LOT of time hitting the same small jumps over and over again, and really worked on dialing my technique and imprinting solid movement from the hips. Ultimately this was a lot of fun, I stayed safe, and progressed my jumping more than if I was always moving on to a bigger jump before I was ready. I plan on more of the same for 2012, with a broader focus on drops and corners too.

    Happy new year and thanks James.

    Reply • December 31 at 4:17 pm
  7. Mikhail Sidorov says:

    You and your program was the biggest opening of 2011! It’s hard to find MTB specific training in Russia! I train at home as i can train only after job at home and before sleep. I train 3 times per week. And 2-3 hours trail ride on a weekend when I do skill drills. I’m a weekend warrior type of rider and i”m somewhere in 4 weeks of umwp 3 now switching to v4.0. I have a limited time for training but thanks to you it’s becoming regular and consistant! Have a strong 2012!
    In 2012 I’ll make more kettlebell training, and riding dh in real mountains and also try super d events!

    Reply • January 1 at 5:15 am
  8. Wacek says:

    I learned lots of valuable things from James, Lee McCormack and Gene Hamilton, too long thing to list them. The most important I think is to learn to separate skills learning into drills, and keep them as far away from your favourite trail as possible.

    However the best lesson was: riding a pump track

    Reply • January 1 at 9:16 am
  9. John says:

    The author of Sugar Nation is “Jeff O’Connell,” not “Jeff O’Connor.”

    Reply • January 25 at 11:47 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Woops, thanks for pointing that out. Great book either way!

      Reply • January 26 at 7:01 am

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