It’s often a key component to athletic achievement, “have laser-like focus”, “show unbreakable concentration”, blah blah blah. Yet, my attention span is often over-extended. (I suppose that’s just a sweeter way of saying I have a rather short span of attention). And I’ve learned to really appreciate this, because in the world of endurance sports, “focus” now has a very different meaning for me.
Hear me out (i.e., focus!) on this …Having a “focus’” (noun) is necessary if you want to find a sense of purpose and pleasure in the broader scheme of things. Identifying goals is important as well - I always have a goal of going hard and finishing strong. But my ability to constantly “focus” (verb) is less important, and can even be detrimental to my progress. In fact, a wandering mind during a tough session can often times be a life saver.
Stay with me…During a session, I wax poetic with myself about a whole host of things, rarely completing an entire thought. I may start with an “oh shit, this is going to be a tough workout” thought, but then I’ll scrutinize an article I recently read about raising minimum wage in San Francisco and how that might affect small businesses, then I might rehash a conversation I had with Chris about the lost art of bread making, and then contemplate a new Ben & Jerry’s flavor, then a brief pace check, then revisit the “oh shit I feel like shit, this is hard” blast, which is thwarted by a “I wonder what my friend Glenn, from 2nd grade, is doing right now at this very moment,” and then …well….you get the point.
This is good for training. I’m all over the place and that helps me. It helps me get past (and sometimes even forget) the tough moments. While I used to be SO frustrated by my mind’s inability to isolate one thought for an extended time, I’m now quite content to have a brain that can’t sit still while I’m training. Plus, I can't think of moments when it's socially acceptable to be this scattered-brained as an adult?
If I was incapable of jumping from one thought to another, I might never get past my initial “oh shit, this is going to be a tough workout” thought. What if all I thought about during runs was my burning quads? Or during long rides, my uncomfortable ass? What if my sole focus during swim sessions was my weak swim form? It would be a miserable experience. Call it scatter-brained, terrible short term memory, or fleeting amnesia. Call it whatever you want, but really it's a survival tactic, and be glad you have it (if you do).
I'm comfortable with all of this because I know one thing for sure….I will not stray from my broader focus. I will always know and intensely follow my goals, but I’ll keep it interesting in between. To help with this, I recently hired a triathlon coach, (she’s awesome) and training will be intense. I wanted to enlist some experience to help with my big goals of pushing my limits in triathlon, which would mean qualifying for Kona and 70.3 world champs, running a sub 3-hr marathon and swimming…um….better. The two of us are clear on these goals. We are focused.
Where does your mind go during training? Let me know in the comments section so I can read it after I polish off a bowl of Ben & Jerry’s and Facebook stalk Glenn.