I was at the track this morning. Anytime I know it will be a challenging workout – my common refrain is “just take it one at a time” and as we progress further into the workout – “just focus on this one.” That happens to be what I started this morning’s session with when I saw fear and dread after announcing the pending workout.
One woman said, “You sure say that a lot.” Then the other chimed in, “Ya, but it really works! I don’t want to think about how many of these we have to do. Next thing you know, we’re done.”
Why does it work?
1. It chops a large project into bite sized pieces (just like the “eating an elephant” approach). Therefore, psychologically it is less daunting. We think of it as manageable. We can do this. It sets the stage – the mindset – to succeed.
2. It produces a process focus. You can only run one repetition at a time, only do one lap at a time and only run one stride at a time. You cannot do more. Therefore, our mental focus is only on what is most immediately relevant in accomplishing your workout.
3. It focuses on what you control instead of what you don’t control. You control your mind, you chose your attitude, and finally you and only you control taking – one more stride, one more lap, or one more “rep”.
4. It avoids an outcome focus. We aren’t thinking about our final split time totals; or about having completed a certain number of quality miles this week; or about tomorrow’s workout; or how sore we will be tomorrow.
5. It keeps in a present focus. We do not control whether we hit our split times on the last “rep”. Right now, we do not control if we will hit the next “rep” on time. We only control right now; our current effort; our current determination to maintain pace.
6. It trains your mind! You are practicing the very focusing skills you must have to perform at your best in competition. You will not magically find out how to “focus” to get through bad patches in the middle of a race. You will not magically figure out what to concentrate on in the last miles of your marathon. You must practice the way you race.
Make it your Mantra
The power is in believing. If you ingrain simple phrases like – “just one more” – into your workouts you concentrate on what you control. You focus on the process. And you are training yourself to have a special skill developed the next time you have a tough time in a race so you can focus on getting through one more step, through one more mile or just to the next corner… especially those last miles of a marathon!