Saturday, June 30, 2012
The Primary Task
"The situation facilitates concentration, the primary task is the only thing happening. so there is nothing else to prevent you from immersing yourself in it. This condition is manifest to some degree in virtually every running race or challenging workout. Seldom are we distracted from out efforts to concentrate on running by things like trying to solve math problems or wondering how we look to the others running around us. Less obvious distractions, however, such as performance relate fears and doubts, are common spoilers of concentration, hence flow, during running."
Matt Fitzgerald, Brain Training for Runners, page 161.
Matt nails this one with the big hammer. This is a crucial point. One might even call it pivotal (an adjective I used TWICE this morning to illustrate). The zone is where everything comes together, your training, your motivation, your heart rate, your octane rating, your focus and your cause. It is a magical blend of mind, body and spirit. You are in the flow and it's GOOD TO GO.
This doesn't happen all the time. It doesn't happen every time you head outside for a run or ride. It does not accompany every workout. Most often, matter of factly, we struggle with the load, happy to simply get through. There is no flow, not a lot of go and very little synergistic harmony.
As far as why this is, I wish I had the answer, but I can only guess. And here is my take:
We lose focus fast. We get bored with the routine and our heads start their diabolical and destructive game of convincing us that it would be in our best interest to cease the current activity, or at the very least back off the throttle to a more manageable level. And POOF, the flow is gone, the magic fades and what started out as a quality session downshifts with double-clutch deterioration into survival mode. You are walking or watching your effort provide barely enough power to sustain the vitals. Your heart beats and your lungs bleat, but you move nowhere fast. In the realms of time and space, you are lost.
All because you have failed to train the most important component, your brain. When the going got tough, you got going (home). You went scurrying for the cover, protection and safety of the understood commodity of normal. Back in the box. Whew, that was close.
Every session, every ride, every run we have a unique opportunity to challenge ourselves to this duel. To take one more step, to keep the output high one more minute, to maintain our focus one more mile. To practice the flow. Feel the power of the triad. Keep it here. Live in the now. Fully. Completely. Totally.
The Olympics are just around the corner. The Tour de France prologue is today. There will be many graphic examples of this practice in the weeks to come. Please pay attention to how the best in the world address this function. We can learn from them. They are Pros at this. It is the singular skill separating the Pros from the rest of us.
The ability to maintain focus. No matter what. A primary task.
Pic: Tim O'Donnell of The US Naval Academy, keeps his focus during the last mile of 140.6 last week in CdA.