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The WNHF Ultimate Solo Training Guide 2024

It's January 8th, 2024.


Most people have started their New Year's Resolutions last week, but we haven't.


Don't worry, it's a marathon not a sprint. And the reality is most people are going to fade out in the next week or two. That's a whole topic itself.


We're here to talk about Solo Training for Historical Fencers, specifically for those who train with West Nova Historical Fencing and are looking for something that compliments our classes.


This is a big post, but I wanted to put all of this information in one place.



First things first:



What are your goals for 2024 when it comes to Historical Fencing and your training?


I've planned out the year assuming a few things.

  1. You're willing to take this plan and adjust it to suit your needs. If you already have a weekly routine that you enjoy, don't stop. If there are things I suggest that don't work for your body due to injury, don't do them. Just like in class, you are responsible for deciding what you will and will not do. You know your body better than me.

  2. You're not an Olympic level athlete, nor do you have the desire, time, or physical ability, to train for hours everyday.

  3. You want to get better at fencing.

  4. You're willing to follow me down this path even if you don't see the immediate connection between what we're doing and swinging a sword.



Alright. Let's address some common questions:



How often per week should I train?


There’s the physiological answer, the psychological answer, and the answer you need to discover.


Muscles need time to regrow, active rest is a thing, so is greasing the grooves.


Over training is real and insidious, especially if you’re new to so much training. I find it catches me by surprise when I return to a training regiment that I used to enjoy but haven’t touched in awhile. Keep an eye out for the signs:


  • Unexpected plateau or decline in performance

  • Injuries, especially 'minor' ones that you think you can train through. No. Address the issue.

  • Major weight changes, menstrual cycle changes, sudden loss of appetite.

  • Persistent exhaustion.

  • Poor sleep or insomnia

  • Decreased motivation

  • Unexplained irritability - this is a big one for me!

  • and plenty others that vary from person to person. If it happens to you, keep an eye out for those symptoms in the future.


How much time do you actually have to train? Be honest with yourself so you aren't setting yourself up for failure by making a schedule that you can't actually maintain.


How good are you at habit building? Neurodivergent people tend to struggle with this A LOT, which is why the common advice for habit building never seems to work for them.


I can help you guess, but it’s going to take OODA loops to figure it out.



What’s an OODA Loop?


This process probably has a billion names and models, this is just the simplest one I always remember.


Observe. Orient. Decide. Act.


Where are you at right now? Where do you want to be in the future? What can you do to get you there? Now start doing it.


As the name implies, this exercise is a loop, meaning after you Act you need to start back with Observe. No continue the cycle, making course corrections as needed.


This is where time-bound goals really come in handy. I've planned the year in 3 month chunks so we can check in and see if its working (as a whole, and for you as an individual).



How long should I set aside to workout?


If you have a routine that works for you, stick with that.


For everyone else, let me introduce you to the building blocks of your goals.


Think of yourself as a building. Like a castle, since we like medieval imagery. It needs a strong foundation or whatever else is built will fall down sooner or later.


Seriously, go check out pictures of Duffus Castle near Lossiemouth, Scotland. It sank into a hill.



Castles are built one block at a time. So are you.


Solo training is building your foundation one block at a time. A solid foundation will help you no matter your goal. So focus on your foundation first, and add blocks as you can for lower priority training.


Instead of trying to work out every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, I set a 'block budget' for the week.


Right now, my goal is to complete 2-3 Blocks of solo training per week.


I struggle to build habits in my schedule, but this building block idea has really been working for me the past few months. I use it for work and home projects I’d rather not do. Very effective.



What counts as a block?


25 minutes uninterrupted work.


This doesn’t mean you don’t take breaks as required for optimal training.


It does mean you avoid/ignore all distractions. No social media. No scrolling your playlist. No ‘quick tasks’.


Parenting obviously makes this challenging, use your discretion if a parenting task has taken you away from your block focus for too long.


But be strict about whether a block 'counts' or not.


You could use a training block to review last weeks class

You could use a training block to prep for next weeks class

You could use a training block to work on your body overall

You could use a training block to focus on your weakest links

You could use a block to read and analyze text



How can I make my fitness a habit?


Some people can build habits. Some people can’t. Don’t judge a fish by how well it climbs a tree. Especially because neither fish nor trees can fence very well.


Use Blocks over ‘Habit Building’.


The day of the week you train doesn’t matter for most people. Completing a block budget does.



How do I find the time?


There’s always time in your week for at least one block. Seriously.


If you can’t find 25 minutes a week for this, then no plan will help you. You’re choosing to prioritize other things. And that’s okay. Just be honest with yourself.



What should I focus on?


There's only 24 hours in a day and a million things vying for your time and attention. You're going to have to prioritize.


Here’s what I came up with when I thought about how I’d ideally prioritize my training. Yours might be in a different order, but you’ll probably have similar highlights


First:

  • Overall fitness

  • Power

  • Cardio

  • Mobility

  • Breath

  • Fuel

  • Rest

And/or

  • Fundamental Actions

Second:

  • Targeted fitness

  • Weaknesses

  • Goal relevant areas

And/or

  • Weekly Class Lessons


Third:

  • Train with other swords

  • Whatever we’re not focusing on

  • Interests outside of our current curriculum

And/or

  • Cross training

  • Any activity outside of swords

Concurrently, or during days off:

  • Stretching

  • General

  • Monthly Focus

  • Massage

  • General

  • Monthly Focus


So... yeah. That's a lot of things.



Follow the MAP


Using another analogy, triangles are incredibly simple and stable structures as long as all three sides are strong.


So here's your triangle. Conveniently, I've called it your MAP. Hit each side of the triangle weekly.


The MAP:


Movement (Body Ability)

  • Squat Ability, which requires:

    • Mobility

    • Strength

    • Power

    • Cardio

  • Push-Up Ability, which requires:

    • Mobility

    • Strength

    • Power

    • Cardio


Awareness (Mind & Body Awareness)

  • Stretch

    • Body Overview

    • What needs attention?

    • Monthly Focus

  • Massage

    • Body Overview

    • What needs attention?

    • Monthly Focus

  • Breathe

    • Square Technique

    • Other Techniques

  • Mindfulness

    • 5x5 Senses

    • Empty Mind

    • Guided


Precision (Sword Ability)

  • Fundamental Focus

  • Monthly Focus

  • Archetype focus



Making it your own


If you’re just starting out, focus on our focus. Adjust towards your Archetype.


If you have a routine, keep going. Use the quarterly focus to check for gaps in your training. Adjust as needed.



What about if I’m an (Archetype)?


Recommendations per Archetype:


Duellist

  • focus on body

  • Focus on progressing along curriculum

  • Improve mind for competition

  • Timeline: spring & fall are the competition seasons around here. Build, focus, taper as needed.


Warrior

  • focus on body and mind

  • Focus on basic sword skill

  • Improve with various weapons

  • Timeline: follow your bodies rhythms, but don’t make excuses either. You can still train, just be mindful.


Scholar

  • Focus on knowledge and critical thought

  • Generalize or specialize as you choose

  • Improve the use of weapons related to your study

  • Timeline: Pick a deadline for a specific piece of research for presentation. It could be stories around the HCC campfire, or giving a talk in class. Hell, publish a book if you like. Be accountable to yourself.


Adventurer

  • focus on strengths

  • Focus on interests

  • Improve a weak link

  • Timeline: what fits your life best? Do you want/need more this month? Less?



What are we working on this year?


I was hesitant to publish the full schedule because it’s going to involve some trust in the process. But you’re all adults, and I trust that if you’re here you’re willing to play along and see for yourself. Plus, no one is forcing you to do anything, this is just what I’ll be talking about most this year.


Focus for each Quarter this year:


  1. Squats

  2. Pushups

  3. Splits (with some upper body calisthenic strength)

  4. Relaxation Routine



Set yourself up for success!


When it comes to sticking with resolutions, or any plan really, there are a few things we can do to really help.


Plan for failure, by which I mean think through the ways that you'll likely struggle to achieve your goals. And then plan how you're going to deal with them when they come up. Pre-planning means you know how to get back on track.


Accountability groups are one of the best ways to keep yourself motivated. We have one on our Discord where we check in and encourage each other to keep going.


The last part is a mindset shift I've been working on. 'Schedules' are hard for me, because if one thing doesn't happen then it can throw off everything else. Even a minor failure feels disproportionally major. This is why a lot of people give up on resolutions every year.


Instead of living and dying by my 'schedule', I focus on my daily or weekly rhythm'.


When a musician makes a mistake while playing with others they don't give up. They don't say 'I'll try again next year.' No.


When they lose their rhythm they listen to everyone around them and jump back in.


So when you struggle check in with your peers and jump back in.



 


Turns out this isn't so much an 'ultimate guide' as it is 'introductory reading'.


These are the thinking steps before the doing steps. Those come soon.



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