Are you looking to start training but can only make one class per week? Is it even worth starting?

Our friend, Rob, is looking to start training at a gym where they offer classes six days per week, but he can only make one per week on his current schedule, and he’s wondering whether it is even worth bothering starting if he can’t progress at the fastest rate possible.

In this video I share my thoughts on this in a short (YES! Start now) and slightly longer version with some more details and ideas.

No sound? No problem, turn subtitles / closed captions on.

Prefer to read? Scroll down for the (edited) transcript.

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Essentially, training multiple times per week is probably a bit better than training once per week, but training once per week is INFINITELY more than training zero times per week.

Start now. Do what you can. Monitor your circumstances and adjust if necessary!

I hope you enjoy the ramble and thanks for watching!


Transcription (edited a little…):

Hey guys, I got this question from Rob via Instagram, and he’s looking to start training. 

The gym he’s looking at offers classes six days a week: Monday to Friday has regular training classes, and then Saturday is open mat, with sparring.  His current schedule means he can only train one time per week, and he’s just a bit worried that it’s not going to be worth his time invested if he can’t progress at the fastest rate possible.  He’s just wondering what the best thing to do is.  

So first of all, thanks very much for the question it’s really cool that you’re looking to start training at this new this new gym, whether it’s a different art from what you’ve done before or if you’re just looking to start martial arts altogether, it’s all it’s all good, and I think you’ll get a lot of benefit from it.

The short answer is: yes start training now and your future self will thank you for it.

There’s something I heard recently which was: When’s the best time to plant a tree? Well, 20 years ago!  Okay, that’s not so helpful, but when’s the second best plant time to plant a tree?  Well, today!


For a longer answer there’s a few points that just want to I just want to go over and highlight some of my ideas on.

The first one is that I totally appreciate your desire to try and progress at the fastest rate possible, and if you’re looking at a gym with six classes a week then, yes, the fastest rate possible might well be training in all six classes a week!  However, you’ve already said your schedule allows you to train one time per week so, right now, that’s actually the fastest rate possible for YOU.

That is, unless you can change your schedule to increase your time available for training (if you think it’s that important to you). If so, change your schedule within reason – don’t over sacrifice other things if they’re important you too.  I realize everyone has a balance to strike: family, work, other hobbies and activities. You probably need to eat, sleep and sort your house out at various times during the week as well, so find the right balance. 

“But what about my schedule” I hear you ask?

Only YOU know whether you can really squeeze any more time out of your schedule this week to get more training in, but even if you can genuinely train just one time a week, that’s cool: go with that.  It’s your maximum frequency RIGHT NOW, it might change in the future, so change what is in your control, and try not to beat yourself up about something that’s out of your control.

The second point is, if you have a good instructor, whey will rotate through topics, drills and skills, techniques and focus over time, so over six months or so you’ll rotate through the broad syllabus (or at least foundational syllabus) and that means that, over time, everyone, whether you train one time a week or six times a week, will get exposure to everything that’s in the syllabus.  

An exception might be that the class you go to is really specific: like a class that’s particularly about takedowns or sparring for example.  Although I suspect if you’re brand new at the gym you might not be eligible to join those classes yet!

So yes, over time, you should get exposure to everything.

My third point is, and this is a really easy trap to get stuck in, it’s something that it’s happened to me before as well which is just:

Don’t compare yourself to OTHERS.  

You’re walking your own path, and although you might walk side by side with someone else for a few steps, or a few miles, or for 10 years… Ultimately, they’re on their own path as well, it’s just coincidence that theirs is parallel to yours right now.

So try not to compare yourself to the progress rates of others, as that’s only really going to lead to disappointment. 

[this next section is expanded and edited from the video version, so bonus points for you readers!]

As human beings we have a lot of cognitive biases where we’re wired to systematically deviate from a balanced view on a particular scenario.  Many have been useful in evolutionary terms, but don’t always serve us the best way in every current-day situation. 

There are several which could be argued to apply here, all have the potential for negative outcomes in your thought patterns, and have similar, overlapping characteristics here are the three that spring to my mind:

Framing Effect: this is a cognitive bias where people decide on options based on whether the options are presented with positive or negative semantics; e.g. as a loss or as a gain.  “Great, I can train once a week!” compared with “Shamefully, I can’t train six times per week”.

Social Comparison Bias: this relates to having feelings of dislike and competitiveness with someone that you see as being mentally or physically better than yourself, basing your moods and feelings on how well you are doing compared with other people in your environment. 

This one has a more obvious effect via social media, if you are constantly comparing your “normal” life to other people’s “highlight reel” lives on social media, it’s inevitable that you’ll feel inferior.  There is, however, a dichotomy (balance) here, as seeing others’ achievements can help you realise what is possible in setting your own goals, and healthy competition is precisely that: healthy in driving improvements in human achievement.

Loss Aversion: this is where we tend to amplify things that we’ve missed out on, or things that we have lost, more significantly than things that we’ve actually gained and things that we’ve won.  It is better not to lose £5, than it is to find £5.

All of these do have (some) valid applications, particularly in an evolutionary perspective (otherwise they would not have developed): framing can help you, as a leader, sway your tribe one way or another in a decision; Social Comparison has similar mechanisms to healthy competitive drive (which drives progress); and as for loss aversion: think of obtaining food when hunting/gathering near starvation – a small amount of food (which is not lost) can ward off starvation for long enough to find more, so it’s life and death not to lose it, whereas finding more is a nice bonus.

[back to following the video]

You can change your focus but to change it takes a little conscious effort to do but is worth the benefits, so walk your own path and try not to compare yourself to the progress rate of others.

If you and someone else start on the same day, and they train six times a week and you train once time a week, then chances are they’re probably going to progress a little bit faster, just because of the amount of training time they’re doing.

But are there any exceptions?

Of course, it might be that you have the mind for it and they don’t, and you might progress at the same rate (although this has a low likelihood), or maybe they get overloaded by six days a week, frustrated, and come up against significant plateaus and roadblocks which are too big, too soon [graduated exposure therapy helps you get used to uncomfortable situations little by little, training in your response to work to overcome them – start small and build consistently has better success compared with the first problem being gigantic and insurmountable!]

So, one time week is what you can do now; don’t beat yourself up about it, try not to compare yourself to others, remember:
it’s your path you’re walking.

But I bet you’re thinking: “Is there anything else I can do?”

You could potentially get some more training in outside of class time, and providing you’re not ingraining bad habits, it will help your progress.  

Ideally you would find a training partner who’s going to the same gym and doing the same class, so you can learn the same material and then practice it during the week on the remaining six days before you come back around to class.  This means you will have had a little more repetition and a little more training volume before you come back round for your class in week two, which will be useful.

If you don’t have a readily available training partner, you can ask your instructor for any solo drills they recommend, and if there’s useful training you could do on your own.

You could also take notes.  Actually, for me, taking notes was a really beneficial way of cementing what we did in the class.  I would just write it down after class, it doesn’t matter what method I used to write it down, I started off literally writing a story of what we did and eventually kind of came up with my own notation (shorthand) for it, including drawing diagrams.

Just the act of writing it down means you go through it again in your mind and try to remember all the details, and it helps cement the ideas inside your head.  

You can you can watch YouTube videos, though there’s a note of caution against this: if you’re a raw beginner this may be more overload than is useful!  So treat this one with caution!

It doesn’t always have to be at the same martial art as well, if you’re training a martial art that’s for self-defence, then watching MMA fights and other combat sports can really help you get the idea of positioning and range judgement and trying to watch for the clues as to when someone’s going to throw a strike or shoot a takedown, it can be beneficial and doesn’t have to be specific to the style you’re training in (I don’t think anyway).  We’ll probably get some really style crazy people who disagree with me but that’s okay, that’s just my opinion, your opinion is good too.

I suppose my final point is this:

You’ve had this idea that you want to start training, and that it needs to be now.

I don’t know what the motivation is behind that, but it’s led you to this point where you’ve looked up a cool gym nearby, compared their timetable to your schedule…  

…aaaaand there’s just there’s just something holding you back.  I’m not quite sure what that is, but:

You don’t need my permission.

Perhaps consider it this way around: training one time a week, yes maybe it’s not quite as good as training six times a week (but of course you may get diminishing returns and it’s not necessarily going to be six times as good to train six times a week).

But training one time a week is INFINTELY more than training ZERO times a week.

You’ve decided you want to do something, and the best way to get going is to literally GET GOING.

I ended up coming around full circle back to my first answer, I hope this ramble is not too long!  I hope this helps you, enjoy your training have a good journey.


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