The Rule of Thirds

by Michael Plank

This has been a rough week of training for me.

After an autumn of only strength training, I finally added some conditioning back into my workouts and it’s been super hard. I get winded way faster than I wish I did.

I started back up with jiu-jitsu a few weeks ago after a long break. I really struggled in class on Monday night. I felt like I was too slow, too tired, and just could not think fast enough to train how I wanted to train.

I’ve been shooting in an archery league this winter. Last Friday I got some really top-notch coaching and practiced hard every day since then. When I shot last night, it was my worst showing of the year.

It reminded me of a lesson I’ve learned more times than I can count over the last 15 years: you can work really hard, and be really passionate, and really dedicated, and still sometimes do a bad job. It’s pretty easy for weeks like that to get a person down.

But in passing the other day, one of our members told me to look up “The Rule of Thirds.”

This is something that’s come into cultural conversation from Olympian, Filmmaker, and Author Alexi Pappas. In her book Bravery, she relays a story in which her coach tells her, “When you’re chasing a big goal, you’re supposed to feel good a third of the time, okay a third of the time, and crappy a third of the time…and if the ratio is roughly in that range, then you’re doing fine.”

Not every workout will feel good. Not every session will feel good. In fact, if you’re working out 3 days a week, maybe only one of those sessions will feel really great. Which means maybe once a week, every week, you’ll feel like you’re making no progress at all.

That’s ok. It’s part of the process. It doesn’t mean you should quit, it doesn’t mean you’re failing, it doesn’t mean you don’t belong or that your training is worthless. It means it’s a one-third day; or a one-third week; or a one-third month even. It’s ok. Tomorrow – or next week, or next month – it’ll be a new third. And that one will be better.

Keep at it, my friends.