The F word (a different F word)
No not that one, the other one. Focus. If one of the most important things holding triathletes (and all athletes) back is a lack of patience then, in my opinion, the second most important thing holding them back is focus. You need focus to complete a workout, to know when to rest, to plan a season and to do anything in life really. If you can’t focus your goals, your attitude, your attention or your energy you’re go nowhere fast.
I’ll start with an example of myself (because I can always make a good example out of what I’ve done wrong!). After I raced a few seasons of triathlon I decided I wanted to go pro. I wanted to be the best, race the best and win. Go me! So I made the goal of becoming a professional athlete… ok now what. How do I focus my energy on that goal? What workouts and race results get me there? What the heck was I supposed to do next? In my brilliance I just figured I should do more of what I was already doing. What I was doing was “working” so more of what was working should get me the outcome I want: win! Thus, I focused my energy on what? Doing more. I read everything I could, found all the “best practices” for coaching myself and did it all… and tried to do a lot of it. Yeah, so going about things like this was totally not focused. I was allll over the place. No focus.
I lacked patience.
Really, I lacked the focus to see I needed to be more patient. I lacked a focus to look at what I was actually doing to myself. I wasn’t thinking about a progressive build of volume over the next few years. I wasn’t think about building an aerobic capacity. I wasn’t thinking that it takes years to become durable at Ironman races… not months. I wasn’t focused on anything… I was trying to focus on everything. I stopped being concerned with the process and started looking for outcomes. When I took myself out of the process how could I have possibly understood what was actually happening? I couldn’t focus during a single workout or race because it was always about the outcome I wanted to attain down the road. I lost focus and I lost sight of the point of it all.
If you want to win races or complete your first race it will take a lot of focus.
You will need to focus on what matters and this will be different for every athlete. Your focus might be on the process of a run stride or on getting enough rides in during the week or on a time-management strategy because you have a full-time job, a spouse and children to also focus on. To focus on something you need to pay attention to the how, why, when and where more than the what. Most athletes focus on the what; what am I supposed to do or what mileage do I need this week. Instead I ask folks to ask me questions. I want them to know why we are only riding at 70% of FTP, when we can go out and run really fast intervals, how to hold your form and where in the day its best to do certain things (like focus on nutrition or fueling).
It takes a lot of focus to sit on a trainer for 4 hours. You become more focused when you understand why you’re on that trainer and when you will be able to go harder, where this training day fits in the overall plan and when the hell can you get off the trainer! 😉 The point here is to understand that focusing on the process of each workout, each day and each year is very important if you want to get better and be better. If you can’t focus your energy in a productive way during a workout you’re never going to reap the benefits you could possibly see and thus not race to your potential.
Be mindful and reflective when things go ‘wrong’.
9 times out of 10 there is a lack of focus somewhere along the way that created the causation affect you are now experiencing the results of. I understand things out of our hands do happen but I also understand that if you stay focused and do your due diligence you can easily avoid the vast majority of pitfalls you might have encountered on your path to getting better and being better. So stay focused and learn.
Today is a good day.