A couple of weeks ago my coached asked me to do a swim sprint to get a read on my endurance swim rate. The sprint was an interesting experience. I learned that losing mental focus was actually a bigger drag on performance than my physical fitness. If you lose focus on what you are doing on every stroke, your form breaks and you’re losing speed with every stroke.
Which got me thinking about mental focus on the here and now.
When you start running there is this mindlessness to the activity. You move your body in a generic running style and calories get consumed.
Running requires so little thought, that the biggest challenge is motivating yourself to be bored and hurt while training.
When I was training for my first marathon, the Athens Marathon, I endured this acute boredom. To relieve the boredom, I listened to a lot of music.
As a result of my new-found focus on training, I’ve noticed a dramatic shift in how I run. I no longer take my music with me. In fact, I find myself increasingly concentrating on what I am doing during the entire period of the exercise. That instead of being bored, I am exhausted from thinking.
That running, instead of being this mindless boring sport, is this very precise sport with very precise actions and objectives.
And if you think running is precise, cycling and then swimming take it to a completely different level.
I am finding that the sport of triathlon requires a lot of concentration. A lot of focus on what I am doing in the right here and now. That it is very easy to make small mistakes that over the long distances compound themselves catastrophically.
So I have to focus on what I am doing. Which is new.
For most of my life, my body hasn’t been something I thought too much about. I never really spent time thinking how it’s moving in space and time. Mostly I’ve been living in my head and the ideas in my head. This sport is forcing me to think about how I am moving in the real world.
And that is a wonderful blessing.