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How to learn tricks FAST (and hold onto them)

A huge part of skating is learning tricks, but the truth is the way so many skaters try and learn actually prevents learning and keeps them stuck at the same level, unable to figure certain tricks out, or locking one in one day, and then losing it the next.

In this video/article I go over why this is along with some ways that you can instantly hack your own body and environment to speed up learning and help you lock in more tricks faster.

The perfect learning combo

Ok so if we can literally change our brains and get better at anything if we put in effort, why is it then that sometimes you just seem like you’re not getting better? How can you try nollie flips for 10 years and not seem to improve?

Well, there are some key ingredients to building the perfect recipe for learning that you should be implementing if you want to learn more effectively:

1. The right amount of focus

2. The right amount of "physiological hypedness"

3. Repetition & failure

4. Deep rest

So let’s go through each of these.

Focus and physiological hypedness 

Imagine a session you’ve had where you were super anxious, you got all in your head and were flooded with negative emotions.

How did you skate?

Like shit, no doubt.

Now imagine a session where you were just super tired, real lazy and with no energy.

How did that session go?

If the hype didn’t start to rise, probably not well either. (It’s also often these kinds of sessions where you get injured.)

Now think of some sessions where you skated well, you were probably somewhere in between, not excessively hyped, but not overly relaxed either - what I'm gunna call the "sweet spot of physiological hypeness".

When it comes to learning new tricks and locking new ones in, the ideal state is somewhere in between. Not freaking the fuck out, but not in pure zen mode either. 

Why? Well not only because you’re literally going to be more able to skate better in that middle state, but an essential piece is that to learn something new, you need to be focused on what you’re doing. This doesn’t need to mean visually focused, you could be paying attention to board feel, how you move your body, etc., but you need to be focused.

If you’re too chill or you’re too anxious, you’ll struggle to focus. If you're too chill your mind might drift and you might think about what’s for dinner or that strange pigeon you saw on the way to the spot.

Then on the other hand if you're too stressed, excited physiologically hyped your mind might jump around or you might think about what people think of your skating, or that you’ll get hurt.

As we all know, there are physical and emotional changes in our bodies depending on how hyped we feel.

When you’re relaxed your heart rate will be lower, breathing will be slower, you’ll feel less tension, less energy, you won’t be so alert and focusing so sharply, and you’ll be feeling more passive emotions.

As we go up the hype scale everything will progressively increase - our heart rate and breathing will increase, we’ll feel more tension, we’ll be more alert and focused. As you hit the peak, you’ll be wired as fuck, and either be feeling positive emotions like extreme excitement or negative ones like anxiety and fear. 

Our hypeness is influenced by everything that’s going on inside and outside of us and is largely automatic, but there are certain things we can do to influence it and bring us into that optimal level of hypeness to learn and skate better.

The environmental effect

As weird as this might sound, the core of hitting this optimal state is that you need to feel safe.

If you don’t, you’re going to be in a defensive state and as your body’s number 1 job is to keep you alive, the last thing it’s gunna care about is your little trick on your little wooden toy.

When you're in this state you’ll feel more negative emotions, like anxiety or fear and not only will you be in a worse state to learn, you’ll even close yourself off to trying new things and pushing yourself on your board. 

This doesn’t mean you have to feel physically safe, as in - "is this guy at the skatepark gunna rugby tackle me to the floor as I go to pop". It can also mean is your ego or 'sense of self' safe…

For a long time I would struggle to skate in different environments with really good skaters because I’d be stuck thinking about whether or not I was skating good enough.

I had a perceived level I had to skate at and even if no one gave a shit about how I was skating, I thought they were and as a result my sense of self was threatened. Instead of being inspired by these other skaters and being open to learn from them (growth mindset), I was stuck in a fixed mindset of "they’re good, I’m not."

So your environment can have a massive impact on your ability to regulate your level of hype. If you want to focus on learning, then make sure you’re in an environment where you’re able to feel comfortable and relaxed.

At least in the beginning, when you’re starting to lock a trick in. After that it can actually help you lock it in further by doing it in more uncontrolled situations, but these aren't good environments to start learning in.

Later on you can use more intense environments to train your ability to handle stress and skate well at higher levels of physiological hypedness (something I go over in the "how to overcome fear video/article").

How to control your level of hype

So once we’ve ticked off the block of feeling safe, we wanna make sure we’re not overly hyped.

We know that when we’re more chilled we breathe slower, our muscles are less tense, our heart rates slower. Luckily, we can actually trick our bodies and minds into thinking they’re relaxed by just doing what they would do naturally when they are actually relaxed.

So some things you can do are:

  • Pay attention to where you hold tension when you’re too hyped, and actively relax those areas. I personally hold tension in my shoulders and abs when I'm tense, so I'll focus on actively relaxing those areas.

  • The "physiological sigh" - A long inhale through the nose, followed by a second quick sharp inhale through the nose (before exhaling), and then a long exhale. Repeat 2-3x. This technique I learned from Andrew Huberman - skater and world famous neuroscientist (check the video at the start of this article for a demonstration on how to do the technique).

  • Go into "panoramic vision" mode.

Do these things until you feel your heart rate slow and a reduction in hypeness.

It might seem like a lot but you can do everything at the same time, and shouldn't take more than 30-60secs. Then when you feel calmer and able to focus, try your trick again.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re too relaxed and you need to increase hypeness, you can do the opposite:

  • Do a proper warm up with some high intensity movements

  • Some fast inhales through the mouth

But also don’t push it, sometimes if you’re extra relaxed, your body is probably asking for some recovery.

Repetition & failure

Alright so now we’re safe, focused, alert, and our brains are in prime learning mode.

Now comes the hard bit… have to skate...

...and fail...

...excessively... in, day out.

There’s no shortcut, but put in the time in this optimal learning state and you’ll be killing it and progressing faster than ever.

Remember failure is the trigger for your brain to learn, so try and free yourself from the need to land it in that moment. If it happens, you were ready for it, if it doesn’t, then you weren’t.

As long as you keep trying, then you’re on the path and you’ll get there eventually. Right now, you’re exactly where you need to be.

If you can learn to value the process of effort and failure and trying tricks, then life is gunna get much easier. So build that growth mindset and learn to love failure! In fact, do yourself a favour and completely get rid of that word from your vocabulary, instead of failure, just go for learning. 

This is important because the more you stress about not landing a trick, the more that physiological hypedness builds, and the more likely you’ll take yourself out of that optimal state.

You can’t force yourself to land it, you almost have to let go to get it.

However, another interesting thing I learned from Huberman is that when you hit that point of frustration, it’s actually right after that that your brain is most ready to learn; it’s paying the most attention to what’s going on.

So as you hit that point of frustration, acknowledge it and make sure your hypeness doesn’t increase more by using the tactics above, and try again.

He recommends sticking in that deep-learning state for up to 30 mins. I would say stop when you feel like you’re either unable to maintain that focused state, or when you just feel like you need a break. You can only learn so much at once, and this is more true as you get older, where you’ll benefit from trying to learn fewer things about a trick or smaller pieces of information. However, you can repeat that process multiple times in a day.

The good news is that even if you didn’t get your trick that day, the next time you won’t be starting from the same point. Your brain will literally have changed to make it easier next time you try it.

Deep rest

And finally to lock in all those attempts and solidify those neural maps you need to get some deep rest, aka sleep. 

Not only is sleep the boss of physical recovery, it’s also the boss of learning. If you don’t sleep well, you’re going to heavily inhibit your ability to learn, so make sure you're getting enough quality sleep by using these sleep hacks in this article.

Naps can also help speed up learning, so if you're a napper then taking a nap straight after your session might speed up learning even more.

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