I’m sure all of us are sometimes guilty of seeking external validation to our successes and, actually, even our failures.
I’ve, for the most part, shied away from the social part of social media for several months now. I had got to a place where I wanted to be involved and not involved at the same time. That conflict stopped me posting blogs, running photos or promoting those who support me as much as I used to.
Why am I talking about social media presence when this is supposed to be about focus (I can hear you all yell)? Well, I think that the social aspect, whether that be online or in life, is part of being a complete athlete, just like training, mobility, strength work, motivation, nutrition or sleep. When focus slips, we can still go through the motions but there are always those signs that all is not quite right. For me, social media presence, or lack of it, was one of those signs. Although, I can only say that now on reflection.
Focus is a core tenet of the athlete and when it falters and isn’t rectified quickly it can spiral. There is focus required at different levels of the whole athlete: Focus on form in a specific rep, focus on general easy paced runs, focus on the discomfort of a long run, focus on maintaining a healthy way of life, focus on good sleep hygiene, the list is eternal.
The common theme, though, is that focus needs to be present in each facet of our lives if we want to be the best athlete we can be.
After running 6:51 at the British 100km championships in March (like how I unashamedly put that in there), I signed up for the inaugural Centurion track 100 mile race hoping to carry over the fitness I had gained from training from the Anglo Celtic Plate. The 3-4 months leading into the ACP had seen me get into the shape of my life, again, thanks to the fantastic programming of ‘The Boss Man’. And so, after a short recovery, I started my build up to the 100 mile race.
Several things happened in the following 3 months or so that, looking back, are easy to identify. I don’t need to list them here, they are insignificant but again, reflection is a wonderful lens. Only, it doesn’t help you in the moment. Motivation is rarely a problem for me, type A, I was born motivated. Training is always done, I love running, but what started to creep in were dropped reps, switching sessions around or cutting the long run to name a few. And I had all the justifications under the sun for the alterations.
Life gets in the way sometimes and all of these are perfectly normal things that sometimes need to be done, once in a while. I would go through the motions on interval or hill sessions, not looking inward to really feeling the sessions, just ticking off the reps. Work was crazy busy I would tell myself; home life is crazy busy I would tell myself. In all honesty, life outside of running never actually changed that much.
I had changed.
I’d lost concentration on all aspects of being an athlete. Going through the motions. Just because my Training Peaks weeks were looking green doesn’t mean it was all “green”.
It crept into all the athlete attributes: I’d cut short the mobility sessions, sessions I normally spend longer on than planned. Strength work would be completed, not worked through methodically, just completed. Hard hill reps were run, nearly hard, tempo runs, nearly tempo. Along with that, were incorrect (for me) food choices, poor sleep patterns, a few too many beers on too many occasions. To achieve what is set out takes effort, attention and concentration in all aspects, and I was falling short.
The spiral was complete.
After a little period of not feeling quite 100% and then a family holiday it was time to take a break, complete rest, re-evaluate and re-plan. I wasn’t concerned as to why I’d lost focus, we can’t change the past and all that. The promise I made to myself is that I would monitor it daily, I would challenge and question my decisions and I would ensure that each day would be the best I could make it. Every day would not be perfect, but I would remind myself of when I watched Graham Connolly get ready for his first section of the Pyllon Endeavour 1 event in November ‘18. How he, in my opinion, epitomised focus and concentration that day, it oozed from him and I use that as a goal now.
Changing to a mode of “focus monitoring” has brought around a switch in my running life. Rather than what’s the next goal or what’s the next time target, I am learning more and more to purposely pay attention to the now and to let the process take its own shape because it is only the now that you have any real control over. That is the only real control you have so make sure you are focused on it one hundred percent.