In distance running, like any other sport, our professional careers and anything else worthwhile in our lives, success in reaching ones goal, highly depends on dedication and ability to focus. And turning up of course.
Dedication is the most obvious attribute. Ultra marathon running requires consistency with hours of training, body nurturing and maintenance over a long period time. The impact on work-life balance, sleep, family, finances and general social life is not neglect able. It is quite a big ask. Without total dedication, it is easy to slip off the training and lifestyle regime and this normally results in poor performances, disappointments or, worst of all, injuries.
While the dedication is taken for granted, the element of constant focus, may be less obvious to those new to the sport and to external observers.
I am talking focus in terms of the full depth of field, not the laser pointer attention and concentration during specific sessions.
I am sure I am not the only one, whose mental switch is always ON.
My “A” race or challenge is at the forefront of my awareness for most of my waking hours.
I am constantly assessing how I feel physically, emotionally and mentally in respect to it. Am I stiff or sore from the last workout? How are my quads and feet? Do I feel strong and engaged? Has my breakfast left me feeling full and light? What are my energy level like today? Am I lethargic or ready for action? Was the effort in the session how I expected it to be? Harder or easier? Was I faster or slower than what I had in mind? What was the feeling when I went up the hill? Am I progressing or lacking? What am I fearful of? I am training enough? I could go on forever…
Unlike million of other transient thoughts coming into my mind throughout the day, these thoughts register and are hard to ignore. They are in focus.
I may be in the middle of a conversation and then my full attention can suddenly switch to the twitching of a muscle and a subtle voluntary effort to stretch it, or a reflection on my morning run.
So if we can't turn OFF the mental focus switch, what we do with that focus and what we focus on becomes extremely important because it shapes the reality we experience. And, in my opinion, we focus on what we believe.
I believe that I am in constant improvement and that everything I do during the day contributes and influences my chance to achieving my running goals.
So, simple things like standing up at my desk, correct my posture is a way to actively engage my gluten and build strength. Taking the stairs two at the time instead of the lift, helps me practice my (pathetic) stair climbing skills. Doing a few push ups in the shower, strengthen my core. Eating healthier food affects my general mood and energy, my training and sleeping. Carrying a positive attitude into the day, shapes the results of that day’s running session. Opening up to the advise and ideas of others, allow me to design my own strategies.
Very trivial things of course with very little physiological benefit. For me the value is the intention, conviction, meaning I attribute to them and acknowledging they are part of my training. So I am always in training.
Others may not give importance to theses little nuisances while I do. Everything else being equal, I believe this gives me an advantage.
Maybe I am being too serious about it all and I should chill out! : )
What I am trying to get to here is that there is much more going on behind the scenes, than what meets the eye.
I often say that the actual running session, is the reward for all the mental focus I spend on it.
What do you focus on?