By Greg Conderacci
How do you get the focus you need to ride or race your best? Here’s one story.
As I dashed to the airport to catch my flight on my way to the Texas Time Trials years ago, I could feel the stress of logistics smother any semblance of focus. A frantic week of out-of-town consulting, late nights and early mornings was not the kind of mental preparation I needed. Besides, I still had to fly to Texas, rent a car, pick up the bike, drive several hours, check into a hotel, re-assemble the bike, shop for supplies and manage a few hours of sleep before the race start. Not exactly perfect preparation to ride 500 miles in less than 40 hours.
How to muster enough focus to be ready and fresh on a starting line only a few hours away?
As I sat on the plane, catching my breath, I resolved to make the enforced peacefulness of the flight as regenerating as possible. The first step was to go to “Ashokan Farewell” on my smart phone. It’s my “cool down” song of choice. I plugged the earphones into my ears, set the tune on repeat and lost myself in the sweet, mournful sounds of the fiddle and the guitar. Although it was written in 1982, the tune is reminiscent of the Civil War era. It is featured in Ken Burns’ The Civil War TV series.
Getting the Heart Rate Back to Normal
Once my heart rate had returned to about 50 beats a minute or so, I took out my fountain pen. Such old writing tools are not only obsolete, but they are downright dangerous on planes where a change in cabin pressure can leave you with a lap full of ink. But as the pen scratches softly across the paper, it says to me “slow down and think.” It brings back fond memories of my childhood when school desks still had inkwells.
I wrote, slowly…
- Relaaaaxxxxx and breathe
- I will do this. I will do this.
- Steady. Steady.
- Flying. Energy. Energy. Flying. Good energy. Flying above the road.
- Control the hills. Up & down. Up & down. Watch the heart rate on the hills.
- Momentum. Good momentum.
- Drink. Eat. Breathe. Roll.
- Easy. Very easy. Nice and easy.
- Peaceful, peaceful, peaceful.
- The story, deep inside, is strong.
- Warm and loose. Warm and loose.
- Let’s go! Andiamo!
By the time, the plane landed, my focus was back. I wasn’t ready yet, but I was on my way. I had re-balanced.
Four Tips to Better Focus
How to wrest focus back when everything and everybody is trying to take it from you?
- Develop “peaceful places” where you can go. Sometimes, these are geographic locations. I wrote a lot of my book, Getting UP! Supercharging Your Energy, at my favorite retreat on the Potomac River. Sometimes, though, you can make a peaceful place anywhere…like on an airplane.
- Meditation works. Often, the “peaceful place” is inside.
- Music helps. The image of Olympic athletes wearing headphones before their events is common.
- Training. If you don’t practice focus, it won’t happen. Do it enough, and it becomes a habit.
Next Article in Series: How Form Funnels Your Energy
Greg Conderacci is a marketing consultant and a former Wall Street Journal reporter, non-profit entrepreneur, and investment bank chief marketing officer. In Getting UP!, he brings you the same skills he teaches at a top graduate school and Fortune 500 companies. Lots of people promise better performance … Greg proves it. Using his energy techniques, in 2015 he rode a bicycle across America in just 18 days — averaging 150 miles a day.