4 years ago
The following blog is based off a post I wrote a few years ago, with some changes and additions. I thought it was definitely a good idea to post this updated version here on CubeSkills. In this blog, I’ll outline a few basic tips for effective practice. Our CubeSkills module titled “Practicing” goes into some more depth across a wider range of topics. The tips outlined below should give you a few pointers when thinking about how to maximise your practice time.
These tips are all based on my opinion and experiences, I’m always interested to hear if people have different views and ideas, so please feel free to leave a note in the comments section below!
Only practice when you feel like it.
Most, if not all cubers, solve cubes entirely for fun and enjoyment. Many of the fastest cubers in the world only practice because it’s fun, or alternatively, they enjoy being really competitive and the corresponding amount of practice that is required to do so.
Cubing should never be a chore, and I think that forcing yourself to practice isn’t the right mindset. You need to be self-motivated, and enjoy what you’re doing. If you’re reading a cubing blog, then that’s probably a good sign that you like cubing! Practicing when you don’t want to will only lead to frustration at bad solves, and sucks all the enjoyment out of speedcubing. That’s not to say that it may not be productive, but if you aren’t focused and motivated, it won’t be as effective.
Personally, I find that the amount I practice can really vary – some days I’ll be too busy with other things to practice cubing, and on others, I’ll sit down and cube for several hours. I don’t think it’s possible to practice ‘too much’, assuming you don’t burn out down the track.
“Breaks make you better” – Stefan Huber
Never be afraid to take some time off cubing. More often than not, I hear stories of people actually getting a PB average after not touching a cube for a week. I don’t really know how or why this happens, but it can definitely be beneficial to not cube for a short period of time. There is some literature which suggests that stepping away from a task with the intention of returning to it actually causes subconscious processing to occur in your mind
For the most part, cubing is a cumulative activity, in that it’s very hard to regress and actually get slower, as you have already built up a certain level of skill. It doesn’t take too much effort to return to your former speed after taking a long break – not that I’ve taken many long breaks from cubing.
Conscious (Deliberate) vs Subconscious (Repetitive) practice
I’m going to define conscious (deliberate) practice as anything you do to improve your overall speedcubing knowledge. Examples of this are:
Learning and practicing new algorithms
Learning new methods
Solving the cube in different ways, experimenting
Watching example solves and figuring out your inefficiencies
Focusing on improving one aspect of your solves
Any sort of drill or practice that isn’t complete solves
Learning new fingertricks
I see subconscious (repetitive) practice as simply timing solves and taking averages, in which your sole aim is to solve the puzzle as fast as you can. In doing so, you’ll be implementing things that you previously learned in your conscious practice time, and they will eventually become automatic in your solves.
I think it’s pretty important to get the ratio of conscious to subconscious practice right. If you’re satisfied and comfortable with your techniques and overall method, then you should probably be spending at least 50% of your time just subconsciously practicing. Many who have researched practice and skill-attainment generally reach the conclusion that deliberate (conscious) practice is most important to improve any skill. I agree, but I also think that it takes a long time to master specific aspects of speedcubing (algorithm execution, lookahead, efficiency), and that a lot of grinding and subconscious practice is necessary to do so. From my experience, it was subconscious practice that led to most of my improvement, but that was perhaps only because I was lucky enough to make the right decisions regarding what I learned, and didn’t form too many bad habits.
if you’re wanting to fundamentally improve your solves and solve more efficiently, then you should spend a lot more time doing deliberate practice. If you aren’t comfortable or happy with an aspect of your speedsolves, then it makes complete sense to drill that element. I discuss examples of these over in the practicing video module.
I would say that at least 50% of my practice is subconscious practice, and as you get faster, more and more of your practice should become subconscious practice.
Personally, I have never followed a strict practice regimen. This ties into the first point, which is that you may not want to practice a specific event at certain times. If you schedule 5x5 practice during a time where you’re really in the zone for 3x3 and feel like doing that, it’s counterproductive. Unless you really like routines and actually enjoy planning practice, then probably avoid this. If you’re very quantitative, and enjoy tracking and watching your improvement, then perhaps it’s worth giving it a go!
For me, loose schedules work a bit better. The closest thing I do to scheduling practice is planning which events I should practice over a certain timeframe, so I don’t neglect anything. If you do lots of events, something like this can be useful when preparing for a big competition. For smaller competitions, I’d recommend practicing only the specific events held at that competition for a few weeks beforehand.
Don’t be discouraged by slow progress
As long as you’re practicing the right things, then all practice is good practice. If your times have been the same for several months, don’t worry at all. On the whole, improvement in cubing is very gradual, but is often characterised by relatively large jumps in your times. Obviously at the beginning, your improvement rate is quick, but the faster you get, the harder it becomes to improve.
Often you’ll have a long period where your times are stagnant, and it is easy to become discouraged. Just remember that the practice you’re doing eventually pays off, and it’s very common for your times to decrease by 1-2 seconds in a matter of days. I remember I was stuck at around 17-18 seconds for a while, and then over the course of a weekend, I was magically averaging 16 seconds. Stagnating, or in some cases, getting slightly slower, is completely natural and happens to everyone.
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