Concentration, focus and attentionnnnnnnnnnnnn.
“How do you sit on that thing for such long periods of time?” What about “I get that rowing is a great exercise, however I get so bored just sitting going backwards and forwards over and over again!” The best one I hear is “I just cant focus and my mind starts to wander!” Sound familiar??
As anyone who does longer row sessions knows, keeping your head in the game for long periods of time can be challenging, but then that’s half the fun right? This week we’re looking at that subtle skill that underpins all of the major factors involved with not just learning how to row, but also how to up your game and really master this massively important field.
In the world of sports psychology, concentration, focus and attention are all interchangeable words used frequently in the rowing world especially for those new to the movements and grasping understanding of the fine motor skills involved with learning how to be not only efficient but also how to work on the path to mastery.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a step backwards and look at the four main areas that make up “attention” in the greater sense of the word.
This is a good one to start with as it especially pertains to those new to rowing or those who partake in multi disciplined sports when the row may only be one element of that event. The thinking here is that some skills are better to pick up with an external focus of attention, a good example of this is when we look at rowing in a training session compared to rowing a TT. During the training session focus and attention has to be given to the finer points of the stroke and ensuring you are getting in your repetitions with the best possible quality repeatedly. This then leads to your TT session where hopefully by this point you have ingrained in enough good habits your focus can be on the more important metrics/measures and you aren’t spending your time thinking about the small details of every stroke as your motoring along that 2000m course.
Masters, R., & Maxwell, J. (2008). The theory of reinvestment. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology. Concluded this well with his research and summarised that this paralysis by analysis.
Maintaining focus over time
Time is a funny thing, for some people 5mins can seem like an eternity, for others 90mins is a long time. Then there are those that can sit and perform a repeated task for 3-4+hours and walk away at the end with a huge sense of accomplishment like it was nothing at all. Most research points to the median length of time an athlete can maintain focus on any task to be around the 10min mark. Think about most Youtube videos you see and you’ll see a trend that this tends to be the sweet spot for keeping people’s attention and ensuring the quality of information isn’t lost over the volume you are inputting.
Awareness of self and situation
This is a deep one that a lot of research over many years has sought to find the balance between how much information can be accumulated (focus) and then the appropriate decision based on the situation and what is going on around him/her.
Think of the start of any race you’ve ever been in and all the stimulus that is being processed by your brain. What you feel, what you hear and what you see are all huge stimuli all having to be processed simultaneously. Get it right and you push off hard from the blocks and start focussing on other stimuli to ensure you achieve that desired outcome. Get it wrong however and chances are you’ll jump the gun/false start or your reaction time will be off and you’ll miss the 3,2,1… and be 5m behind from the very first stroke.
Going back to last weeks blog and the idea of controlling anxiety and arousal, those techniques of relaxation, imagery and Systematic desensitization, are your key here. Practice these and learn to control what you can control and your ability to increase awareness goes up exponentially.
Shifting focus when needed
Just like everything the path to mastery is always through all things and ensure you don’t become too enamored with the small things that distract from the bigger picture. Research by Nideffer and Segal (2001), gave us the Attention Style Model, that broadly outlines both you with attention (x axis) and your direction of attention (y axis).
There are as always, a multitude of tests available online that can help understand what type of attention style you predominantly lean towards, but in general it’s a great tool to help you really be aware of your abilities here and fine tune those areas you could do with improving.
That’s it for this week!! Lots of introspective topics looked over and a great way of getting to know more about your ability to master your concentration, focus and attention skills. Practice hard and learn to embrace that ability to just learn more through whatever style suits you best.
Yours in fitness, education and mastering focus!
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The difference between my 1st & 2nd marathon row was the nutrition. During my 1st marathon after an hour I was a scatter brain. During my 2nd one I was hydrating to give my body what it needed. Subsequently it was much easier to remain focused on my monitor for the full marathon ( I also had music playing). The hard time for me to remain focused is in the 30:00 or less time domains, where I am going hard and hit the wall where part of me wants to back off a bit. That’s the point where sometimes I will push a bit harder to remind myself why I am rowing. To say “I see you, but I’m going to continue pushing anyways”. The other thing for me as a meditation person is focusing on my breathing. Doing this I pay better attention to what is going on with my body.