Think Less, Do More! What’s Holding you back?
Do you ever get stuck in thinking mode? Do you find yourself analyzing your dog or yourself while you’re running instead of being in the moment? This is a problem I’ve encountered quite often lately with my border collie Heist.
Why is thinking in agility a problem? It interferes with your reaction time, increases your own stress, and basically just interferes with your connection with your dog!
Have you ever showed up to a trial late and had to run the course without walking it? I’ve had many people tell me that they’ve actually had some of their best runs in this situation! Why? Because they didn’t have time to think about what they were doing…they just had to run it!
Admittedly, my best runs are the ones that I can’t remember what actually happened! It reminds me of when I’m driving an incredibly familiar route and get where I’m going without actually remembering the details along the way (I try not to do this, but it does happen). My best runs come when I’m in a sort of agility trance. I firmly believe that this is because reactions are much faster than thoughts. This is why you’ll often hear me say “There should be no thinking in agility, only reacting.”
I came across this concept when I got challenged to a Wii Fit “soccer ball” contest with a friend of mine. I had never played before and I was so terrible that it was embarrassing! For those of you who aren’t familiar with this game, it involves balancing on a board and leaning in different directions to head soccer balls that are being kicked at you. To make things more challenging, the kids also kick their shoes at you (you don’t want to hit those) and there are black and white panda bear heads that knock you off balance! Needless to say, I convinced my family that it would be a good investment to buy the game…of course I just wanted to practice and redeem myself. I practiced until I actually became quite good at it. I ended up spending a whole day trying to turn the whole leader board into perfect scores. What I realized was that if anything broke my concentration and I had to actually think about hitting the soccer balls then I would mess up.
Huh. Seems a little like my agility runs the past weekend!
Then I realized something. I cannot think fast enough to keep up with Heist. It seems the moment my focus breaks we fault somewhere. My best moments with him have been the ones where I haven’t been thinking at all. I was almost “feeling” the run instead of thinking about it. Just reacting on a subconscious level and he was doing the same. Magic!
Here’s a video that was shared on Facebook today of one of my favourite handlers to watch, Silvia Trkman. What I noticed most while watching the video is how she’s completely in the moment with her dog. There are no hesitations in her handling where it seems like she is thinking.
So how do we train ourselves to stop thinking and truly be in the moment?
I think a big part of it is letting go of the need to be perfect. We often are so concerned with breaking things down and getting it right, that we actually teach ourselves to always be thinking and analyzing while running. If we never practice running anything from start to finish, how are we actually going to be able to do it in the ring?
Think Less…Do More!
I’m done planning out extensive lists of things to do with my dogs which never actually get done. Or spending my time thinking of what I should be doing instead of doing it. I’m going to focus on where my time should really be spent…actually training! Not thinking about training.
Now I’m NOT saying that you shouldn’t go into your training session with a plan. or that you should run every sequence from start to finish without fixing your contacts or having your dog break their start line. But for me personally, I tend to get stuck at the planning stage or analyzing what’s happening and not actually running my dogs.
So today I’m taking action and scheduling some time to train my dogs and work on preparing my mind for staying in that moment.
Jess Martin of Agile Dog Training