Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Concentration is the secret of strength.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are times when the best I can do is get out of bed at 4 a.m. and get the training done. One way or another, I'll find a way to log the miles regardless of how slow or sloppy it might feel. That has to be enough, because sometimes it's all I have to give mentally and/or physically.

There are other times when I get out of bed ready to take on the world. Ready meet the goal no matter what it takes. Sometimes I can meet the goal, whatever it might be, with sheer physical effort. Sometimes my level of fitness allows me to breeze through my training session with perfect execution all while my mind is organizing tasks for the day and plans for the weekend or chatting with my running buddies.

Sometimes it takes more than strength, endurance, aerobic capacity, and good nutrition. We all know about the power of the mind. Anyone whose been in a tough 5k race or anyone who has ever set out to increase his or her running distance a few miles knows about pushing through the pain, positive thinking, and playing tricks on the mind.

I have previously mentioned fear as a contributing motivator for getting me out of bed and into the pool in the wee hours of the morning. Fear of a 2.4 mile ocean swim certainly takes care of any slacking I might be tempted to do when it comes to swim training.

Now consider the times when you are:
  • not in a competitive race where the adrenaline is racing
  • not setting out to achieve a new distance or milestone and the excitement abounds
  • not going into a workout that presents any element of fear to motivate you
Case in point: My training plan called for a 45 minute trainer spin today. That's all. Just a 45 minute spin on the trainer that was to consist of a 10 minute warmup, 25 minutes over 105 rpm, and a 10 minute cool down. Easy enough, right? It couldn't be as bad as the hour long spin plus strength training I had to do yesterday that consisted of several 10 minute time trials pushing my biggest gear (OUCH). Right?


It presented a whole new problem that I didn't even realize I had - FOCUS.

You know what, my poor legs don't want to spin for any length of time anywhere near 105 rpm's. So when my warmup was over, and I picked up the cadence for a few minutes, I immediately thought "I can't sustain 105 rpm's for 25 minutes. There's no way." I tried distracting myself by watching the morning news, only to find my cadence dropped even lower. I picked up my Triathlete magazine, hoping to distract myself with a motivational article. No such luck. I even momentarily decided that this training plan was ridiculous, and I'd just do the best I could and be done with it. But riding another 30 minutes knowing that I wasn't anywhere near the goal was not any easier.

The only thing left to try was crouching down into my aerobars and planting my sites firmly on the cadence meter of my cyclometer. I focused visually on that number, and I focused mentally on spinning deliberate, smooth circles with no wasted movement. I could tell a difference in my pedal stroke, and it was somewhat difficult to maintain. But I focused intently on that and soon saw the cadence meter begin to rise.






And what's more is that physically, I wasn't putting out that much more effort. I wasn't breathing any harder, and I wasn't going anaerobic. But I was intently focused on the present moment and the path of my pedal stroke. My natural inclination was to let my mind wander to the fact that I had to keep this up for 20 more minutes, and when I allowed that - my cadence would drop. But I continued to refocus until I eventually held the concentration so well that I finished out the last 8 minutes of the ride with numbers like




at virtually the same level of effort.

The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.
-Bruce Lee


triguyjt said...


you lived that bruce lee quote.
cool but you didn't think you were zoned into it..but tah were.
nice header on the blog..good look

tri-mama said...

way cool- I need to take my training plan a little more seriously- I tend to cut the stuff I think is crazy-I'll try the focus thing :-0

Allez said...

I need to get on the trainer and tough a ride out...

jahowie said...

I need to stick with a training plan. I never see myself getting up at 4:00 a.m. to train though. I'm too much of a night owl.

Benson said...

'nuff said.

faithrunner said...

Thanks to you, I got up today for my morning swim!! Hated it, but I did it. :) Keep up the great work, wish I could train with you-or you could teach me. Also, glad you weren't taken up by a tornado.
take care

DaisyDuc said...

Such a good point there sista! Too bad sometimes it is so much harder than other times!

Oh those 4AM wake up calls are early even for me!

J~Mom said...

Nice!! You are so right about the focus!

Christine said...

You are fierce! I love it! I can't wait to start tri training...but gotta knock off the full marathon first. Keep up the awesome work!

Christine said...

I would absolutely come up to TN and do one with you. Let me know a good one...towards the end of the summer and I'm there! (Not real long distance yet..haha)

Wes said...

I did my first trainer ride last night, and I opted for a thirty minute ride to start out. I was amazed at how hard it was to get my heart rate up. I was spinning in the 70-80 cadence range and was only getting my heart rate into the bottom of zone 2. I need to work on that more, and like you, focus on cadence and form. I go an excellent workout though, and I'm excited about the new trainer!!

TriShannon said...

I find focusing on the trainer to be one of the toughest things! Nice work on dialing in!

Steve Stenzel said...

Well done on the bike! That's tough to do!