Where your head is at during your training will significantly impact your weekly progress and your long term results.
Here's how to refocus when life has you distracted.
Yup. Today was totally one of those days.
Well, Actually, it’s been one of those WEEKS.
The end of August /beginning of September is when I close out my business and training year. Partially because way back in 2008 I opened my studio and coaching business in September, and partially because it’s the end of the road racing season, which was the majority of my clients when I started.
Add to the fact that I LOVE fall riding and my motivation (and actual ride time) go way up, and it just made sense.
As much as I love the process of yearly review, seeing what worked, what didn’t, it’s also taxing (Oh yeah, those get done here too….).
This all adds up to LOTS of different projects, workout programs, and client needs floating through my head in between actual sessions with those I coach.
It’s almost comical, as soon as the clock hits 2 minutes to the start of the video call, phone call, or session, I’m 100% present. As soon as the session is over…..
But when it comes to my workout, it can still be difficult to bring myself to focus 100% on the task at hand.
Part of this is because my workouts are where I tend to subconsciously “workout” big challenges. Kinda like what Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein used to do by reviewing their big challenging issues right before they slept in order to allow their subconscious and “universal intelligence” workout for them.
But this week, I haven’t been able to shut down my brain, which causes big problems…
The problem with not being purposeful in your practice
Nowadays many folks are quoting Eriksson’s “10,000 hour rule”
“Oh yeah, I’m working towards my 10,000 hours to become an expert”
“…All part of the 10,000 hours to becoming an expert!”
But the problem is, they’ve either not read the book or synopsis, or, they forgot the anchor in the 10,000 hours, which Eriksson talks about:
It’s not “Just slog through 10,000 hours and *Poof, Shazam* you’re an expert”.
That was a big point Eriksson made through his book.
Purposeful, focused, practice is where expertise is honed, thought processes refined, and mental maps molded.
Simply “putting in the work” is not going to get you there. Especially not over the long term.
Sure we all have off days, but true professionals can show up and get it done, even when they “don’t feel like it”. This was one of the reasons my writing mentors pushed me to write every day, EVEN if it was garbage. It’s a practice, which takes time to build proficiency at.
Strategies for When Focus Eludes you
As I mentioned at the beginning, today was a struggle to focus, and coincidentally, one of the regulars at the gym asked me the exact following question:
“How do you focus when you lift? Where is your mind at?”
Here’s my answer, which also hold in it 3 prime strategies for focusing in.
- On good days, I can “get in tune” with my body during the dynamic warmup. I feel evey muscle, have a great understanding of what my joints are doing, and am able to get into a state of “Flow” where I’m 100% present, and nothing else exists. Time flies by, and I can stay on task for the entire time.
This happens due to my concentration being on making each repetition FEEL perfect in its execution (ok, really it’s more about being more perfect than the last one).
- On day’s that I’m hot and cold, I think about the desired outcome (goal) that this workout is pulling me towards:
-Improved strength for my knee.
-Better strength balance for my shoulder.
-Stronger more resilient rotary stability and glutes so I can ride longer.
This focus on WHY allows me to stay on task. I’m reminded of my deep reason of why I’m doing this: A better me.
- On bad days, like today, it requires accepting the fact that my mind is elsewhere, BUT I AM HERE DOING MY WORKOUT, and I need the actual work done (i.e. the strength training or intervals themselves) to be of as high quality as possible. NO EXCUSES.
To keep myself focused here, I use it ONLY when I truly need it:
From the second I touch the weights or change gears to set up for my set or interval, to 10 seconds after I have finished and put the weights down, or finished my interval.
In between those efforts? I pick 1 “Big Hairy Problem” to think about, and 1 “Enjoyable challenge”, usually a clients workout plan, or a project I’m working on so as to let my mind wander, by not too far!
BUT, there are times when we have trouble bringing ourselves back to task. For that I employ the “let’s review my last few workouts” tool, which means that I’m flipping back and forth through my training program to see how I’ve progressed, and to look at WHY I am doing that next set.
This task puts my mind on point for what I am about to do, allowing me to think critically, or just read and re-read the last few workouts which gets me to think about one thing: What am I about to do, and how did I get to this point?
Soooo, that's done...
Nothing fancy shmancy or super complex.
Just simple little strategies to pull the mind on task for the things that are most important.
Charles Duhigg talks in his book “The Power of Habit” about decision fatigue, and how it can wear us down, and impact our abilities to make high quality decisions.
It’s not the big decisions that wear us out, it’s the constant small decisions we make, such as what shirt to wear, should I wear pants today or not, and “what should I make for breakfast?”.
This is why some of the best coaches, trainers, and professionals I know have many routines in their day:
Dan John owns 8-10 pairs of the exact same shorts, and 8-10 of the exact same shirt, so he doesn’t have to decide what to wear to work each morning.
Gary V’s morning starts at 5am with a gym session, regardless of how he feels, he just heads to the gym.
Some presidents have their suits picked out, and only need to decide which color tie to choose (out of 2 ties) for that day. Others just let their head staff decide for them.
While we may not have staffers to decide for us, we CAN figure out our own common trends and decisions, and move them more towards automation.
Great examples of this would be:
- Automated savings from your bank account each month before you even see your paycheck
- Selecting a uniform for yourself to wear each day
- Anchoring your days with a breakfast that has the same 3 basics (ie. 400g greek yogurt, 1 cup of coffee, 1 serving fresh seasonal fruit)
These little changes add up to big rewards in your mental freshness, and can help you better maintain focus when you need it most!