Triathlon is a Game of Coping With Distractions

Triathlon is a Game of Coping With Distractions

“The part of our brain that thinks and talks is not the same part of the brain that moves the body. With quiet, your brain has the full capacity to devote to propelling you forward and to finding the flow state that has nothing to do with analyzing, calculating, or worrying.”

Mark Allen

My focus for the 2023 race season is to FOCUS. See what I did there?

But seriously, staying focused during a race can be extremely challenging. Whether it’s triathlon or an entirely different sport, there’s anticipation and adrenaline, race dynamics and athlete comparison. There are personal goals, advice from your coach, and often-imagined expectations.

While some thoughts can be helpful in providing motivation, most of it’s just noise- a distraction that affects our ability to focus.

The truth is, if I’m busy analyzing, calculating, or worrying about what MIGHT happen, I’m wasting valuable energy and focus that I could be using to MAKE. IT. HAPPEN.

This quote from Dr. Patrick Cohn perfectly sums up the challenges of maintaining focus during a race. “Triathlon is a game of coping with distractions. Three different races within one competition can present a myriad of distractions competing for your mind space.”

During a race, it’s easy to drift away from your my effort by thinking about other things like the weather, other competitors, how far I have left to go, how much it hurts, ect. I’ve learned that while these thoughts are normal, obsessing over them will only have a negative effect on performance.

  • The weather is irrelevant. Everybody is racing in the same conditions.
  • Other competitors mean nothing. I can’t control anything they do. I can only control my own effort.
  • Getting overwhelmed by thinking about how far I have left to go isn’t helpful. I’m not getting there any faster by obsessing about where I am right now.
  • Worrying about how something hurts isn’t going to make the pain go away. Triathlon is hard. Things are going to hurt.

Here are 4 tips that help me:

  1. Figure out when and why distractions start to pull your focus.
  2. Learn your triggers and create a plan to regain focus when it starts to slip.
  3. Use a mantra or verbal cue like “smooth strokes,” “deep breaths,” or even “focus.”
  4. Look at your surroundings. Listen to what you hear. Think about what you feel. Bring yourself back to the present moment.