Maintaining focus

1 May

Today, as it turned out, has for many reasons made talking about focus very apt. It has been a day of success and failure and has involved refocusing on more than one occasion.

Before I talk specifically about today, let me talk about focus in general. The first question I would suggest is what to focus on. In my case, my overall focus is on broad ranging, functional fitness. For you I would recommend only you can decide, it is a very personal decision. So let’s assume you have decided what to focus on, is this all you need? Well for a specialised athlete, it could be argued there is only one true focus; to be the best at their event. For the rest of the world, I think there is much more to it.

I personally, as I have eluded to before, set small, achievable goals on a regular basis. In short, whilst I have a long term focus, my immediate focusses are not only numerous but also ever changing. Allow me to use a few examples of my own. Last Monday, I had my twice yearly fitness test. For that day, but that day alone, my focus was firmly on beating my previous best. I knew I was fitter than the last time I did it, all that remained was to prove it to myself. I did beat my best, and whilst this made me very happy, it was only a confirmation. I celebrated because I’d set a realistic goal and achieved it, but then my focus instantly switched to my other workouts for that day, and their component parts. So this then is my first tip, regularly adjust your short term focus and don’t dwell on success too long, this will lead to complacency and derail your further progress.

I have already talked about my two lists, weaknesses and PRs. It is tempting to want to walk into the gym, onto the track etcetera and want to do everything. I am certainly guilty of this on a regular basis. To put it simply though, the less goals you have to focus on, the greater the chances of success. To that end, avoid temptation and pick 1 or 2 to focus on. Maybe work one weakness and chase one PR? So my second tip is to keep short term goals to a minimum.

All this sounds great, but what about the days we don’t turn a weaknesses into a strength, or add 5kg to a PR? Well in this instance, take a step back, and look at the bigger picture. At this point, think about your overall focus. You have most likely beaten PRs and improved weaknesses by the truckload. Also worth keeping in mind is the fact EVERYONE has bad days, weeks, months and more. The benefits of working just as hard through these times are immense. You will come out of this bad patch stronger, faster, better. So my third tip is don’t let bad results destroy you confidence, instead let it motivate you safe in the knowledge you are still improving.

My fourth, and final tip concerns inspiration. This can be drawn from a wide variety of sources, not necessarily related to fitness. I am regularly inspired by tales of bravery, songs, films, speeches and even anecdotal pictures etcetera posted on Twitter. Another great inspiration is the series of Hero WODs used in CrossFit and in this case there is a direct relation to my goals.

My finishing point concerns self motivation. A famous quote says. “Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want the most” I find this very appropriate and often remind myself of it when I’m hungry!

As I now talk about a somewhat different day, further points on focus will crop up. The start to my day was very standard. D-Aspartic acid, gluten free sausages, poached eggs, bacon and the usual combination of vitamins were all dealt with by 7:30. I knew I had to compete in an athletics competition this afternoon, so I prepared my lunch ready to cook and eat before I set off. Once in work, I was told I now needed to be ready to leave at 9 o’clock and would be released from work 10 minutes before. Needless to say, I now felt much less prepared and had to rush. I changed, put on my PPS Nutrition hoodie and threw my gear and CCE into a bag. Once I got to the track, I was asked to step in for the long jump as nobody else was available. So my day was now going to consist of, long jump, 1500m and the 4x400m relay. Nerves were rapidly creeping in, compounded by the fact there was nothing available to eat! I did my best to calm myself by concentrating on the fact I was only racing myself, yes it’s nice to do well, but I am not a specialised athlete and many of the competition were. I also tried to focus on each event in chronological order. The long jump was a gentle break in of an event, one which I haven’t attempted in some 15 years, but enjoyable nonetheless. I jumped around 4.30m at best however had no target as I had only found out about the event shortly before. I have looked around a bit, 4.30m is quite poor, but I’m happy as I know it was the best I had available today.

As the 1500m fast approached, despite getting hold of a non-paleo flapjack and my usual CCE, I had a dry mouth and couldn’t stop shaking. I needed to sort this out to perform my best. I decided to ignore the other competitors and set a goal. I did some rough maths and calculated I was capable of between 5:10 and 5:15, and instantly began to focus on this. Once the race was underway, I simply did all I felt I could. I almost collapsed across the line, having given everything I could. The result of my first track race in 12 years? Well I got my goal; 4:57. An unrelated matter, this placed me fourth. I was very happy and went into the 4×400 with my nerves fully settled.

A new focus for a new event. The major difference now is that this was a team event, and my focus reflected this. I wanted, especially as the slowest member of the team, to hold the position I was given. (I did have a rough idea that I wanted to run under a minute). I was lucky, very lucky, due to three very strong team members, I was handed the baton for the third leg some 50m in the lead and managed to hand over about 60m ahead. The anchor leg runner cruised to victory about 90m clear. It felt great to be part of a winning team and in spite of my intention to only compete against myself, I admit this small victory felt good.

I have finished my day with a relaxing meal of prawn stirfry and some time with the TV. It was supposed to contain a long run of 24 miles or more, but after the events of the day, I had to adjust my focus!

Albeit a strange day, I am taking the positives from it. Hopefully my progress towards the Keswick to Barrow ‘walk’ which I will be running in a team of 12, won’t have been hindered too much. I hope not, but this will be by far the furthest I have ever run, and so is now my medium term goal. If you are feeling generous enough to sponsor me, any small amount is welcome. Please click here. My number is 7801.

Tomorrow I will be talking about paleo in social situations and snacking on the go. Until then…

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