Mental Training: Focus

This is part 4 of 6 looking into the mental factors discussed in “The Triathlete’s Guide to Mental Training”. The six factors are motivation, confidence, intensity, focus, emotions, and pain.

Focus is defined as the concentration of attention or energy on something.

The “something” that we as athletes need to focus on is often misunderstood. There are two type of focus, internal and external. Internal is everything inside of you (thoughts, emotions, physical responses, body position, hydration, etc.); then there is external, which is everything outside of you (sights, sounds, equipment, weather conditions, etc.) on which you could focus. Focus is the ability to to attend to internal and external cues.

One of the most important things to try and understand is what style of focus (internal or external) you prefer. You may be more comfortable focusing on some cues and avoiding or ignoring others.

If you have an internal focus style you will more than likely be consistently focused on yourself during training and races…paying attention to only to what you are doing and how you are feeling. This is the type of focus that I prefer. I can run or bike a route 100 times and not notice something that becomes obvious the first time I drive my car down the same roads.

Athletes with an external focus style perform best when they broaden their focus and keep their minds off of what they are doing. Even during races, these athletes tend to talk with other competitors. This style of focus works for some athletes, allowing them to not over think their race.

No matter which style you prefer, you need to try and limit your focus to some key areas.

The book describes 4 areas that you should focus on during your training/races:

  • Positive – focus on positive things that will help your performance
  • Process – focus on what you need to do during the race, not on what might happen at the end of the race
  • Present – focus on what you can do that the present moment of the race rather than the past or future
  • Progress – focus on your own improvement, not others

So think about these 4 “P’s” when you think about narrowing your focus.



2 solid hours in Zone 2…building endurance
I did a 10 minute warm-up, then increased my heart rate to zone 2 (125-137 bpm) and held it there for an hour and forty minutes, then did a 10 minute cool-down.
Avg HR = 129 bpm
Max HR = 143 bpm

Here’s a pie chart of my workout (87.26% of which was in Zone 2):

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