How Long Does it Take to…

How long does it take to learn crow? How long until I can do a pull up? How much longer before I can drop into splits? When will I be able to do a freestanding headstand? And so on…

Most people want to achieve things as quickly as possible. That’s why many short-term programmes (eg learn X in 30 days, or lose Y lbs in a week) are so popular. While it might be theoretically possible to get the desired results in the alloted time, in practice I’ve found rushing it rarely works.

Factors

I’m focus here specifically on how long it takes to build strengh, gain flexibility, or learn a fitness-related skill (for example handstand). It’s impossible to objectively answer how long it takes to learn pretty much anything. It depends on:

  • your current level
  • how often you train
  • how you train (the actual exercises and reps)
  • how hard you train (are you pushing yourself enough? Or maybe too far?)
  • whether you’re doing this for the first time, or re-learning (the latter will be faster)
  • any ilnesses, injuries, or other conditions
  • are you getting enough sleep, eating well, etc.

Benchmarks

But I know that despite all those points, it can still be helpful to have a rough benchmark. Especially from a person who was in a similar situation as you are now. As long as you are aware of all the disclaimers and understand that your path might turn out different, it’s useful to know how others did before you.

I’ve found it very helpful to maintain a list of any new skills and milestones from my own training. Whenever I hit a plateau, it’s encouraging to look back and remember all the progress I’ve made, and that pauses are normal.

If you’re wondering exactly how long it took *me* to achieve various skills, you can find the list here. For reference, my rough training schedule during the past few years is here.

More generally speaking, this is what I have learned from my experience. It holds true for me, but it may not for you.

Duration

However long I think it’s going to take, in practice it’ll be even longer.I’d rather progress slowly but safely than risk getting injured – in the long run, that is a much bigger delay and obstacle.

For example, I’ve been slowly progressing through variants of lotus position for 3.5 years now; perhaps it could have been faster, but as soon as I felt something in my knee, I decided to back off a bit.

For a noticeable progression in strength (that can not be explained by daily variance), I will probably need to train consistently for at least 2 months. For example, to go up one resistance band in pull up training, I averaged about ~2 months.

For a lot of arm balances and similar poses, it takes me several months to achieve it once, then several months to actually be able to do it consistently and “easily”.

Several times, I’ve achieved a skill, only to quickly lose it again and take many months to regain it, which I can’t quite explain. For example: crow, headstand.

Frequency

To learn new techniques and skills, I need to practice them regularly (several times a week), otherwise I’ll stay at the same level.

Training 3x/week is a good number for me to make slow, consistent progress. Training 2x/week is good enough for maintenance. 4x/week can lead to faster progress as long as I enjoy the training enough and don’t get bored/tired of it. Any more than that doesn’t really bring much benefit, and can actually feel like it’s slowing me down sometimes.

Sometimes, the block turns out to be in my head. I don’t always immediately realize that I’ve built up enough strength and flexibility to do something.

For example, I hadn’t really attempted lotus in shoulderstand since I last tried it about a year or more ago and failed. Then one day this year I just though, hmm, I feel like I should be able to do this now, and it actually just worked.

For skills where the main blocker is mental, I need to train much more frequently to normalize it. Usually for a short session is enough though – e.g. a couple attempts at an inversion almost every day (hopefully doesn’t need a long warm up).

To sum up…

Most importantly, with perseverance, patience and consistency, you can learn just about anything eventually.

However, sometimes there are a couple of things that I honestly doubt I will ever be able to do due to physical limitations. Specifically, middle splits. I’d like to be proven wrong, but I just don’t know if my legs and hips bend that way. I’ve made progress in pretty much every other form of flexibility over the past few years, but not much in this one. It’s currently not a priority for me, but maybe one day I’ll try to focus on it just to see if it’s on the cards.

Checking calendar

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