Recently, Wind_Eagle wrote a blog with his thoughts on practicing in which he asserted the standard advice to solve more problems is not a reliable way for gray/green users to improve. I don't agree with some of his conclusions: for example, he asserts that it is difficult/impossible to practice at the gray/green level without a coach; as anecdotal evidence, I have never had a coach coordinating my competitive programming practices, and I think many other top competitive programmers have also never had access to coaching. However, I agree that the standard "just solve problems" advice is not working, and I don't know what is the best advice to give to gray/green users on how best to practice, so I wanted to start a discussion of what has worked for people in the past.
Therefore, I have a request for everyone reading this blog: if you are cyan or above, please post a comment sharing what you did to advance to cyan (or perhaps even blue). Everyone is welcome to comment, no matter your current rank and no matter when you made the climb to cyan.
I'm hoping it should be interesting to see if there are any patterns in the responses (e.g. how many people had a coach? What sort of mathematical preparation did most people have? What resources did people use? How do all of things vary when we compare people who started competitive programming many years ago to people who started today?). I'm primarily interested in hearing what you actually did, not what you would recommend to someone else who's currently gray/green (though if you want to give advice after sharing your experience, please feel free to do so). The reason I'm writing this blog is because I think the advice we're giving is generally not working, so I'd like to learn more about what actually worked for others in order to get a better sense of what the "standard" path to cyan is (and how it can perhaps be made more efficient).
I'll start by posting a comment about my own experience and some thoughts on why training as a new competitive programmer is so difficult in the current landscape. I'm looking forward to reading what you have to say!