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Sunday, July 25, 2010

3. Fatigued Focus on the Run

New research shows lowest O2 usage (highest efficiency) when focusing on the running experience or sensation itself; simply competing or running. Staying in this less than fully conscious flow state can easily be interrupted by fatigue or any other loss of focus. When teaching runners to stay most efficient I have always advised them to focus on mood words in the beginning – words like strong, relaxed, fit, capable, ready, racer, smooth, relaxed, fun, racing, etc. Once fatigue sets in & they start to lose rhythm & their mechanics become disrupted & uncoordinated, (as they most often are right off the bike in triathlon), then flow & that type of ideal focus is lost & the runner must resort to a new tactic. That tactic is focusing on process. Focusing on fatigue or performance, especially outcome, is dissociative & has been shown to be the least efficient. Focusing on process can often return rhythm & flow. The skilled look for that beat of foot strike. A set of skills, like shortening the stride to return or maintain rhythm, can be taught/learned & can be ways back into the run.
So in summary: Focusing on anything other than that which can propel you forward faster during fatigued running can be called lost focus. Focusing on fatigue, or trying to think dissociatively, i.e. of something else to get your mind off the task at hand, when racing or running hard, leads to reduced access to fitness & ability. Focusing on how you are running (the mechanical movements) is also ineffectual, as this is a cognitive process that occurs so much slower (it is chemical), than the natural (electrical) flow of a reflex (unconscious) action. Thoughts on getting limbs & body into optimal position to gain maximum benefit from power application & elastic return are excellent ways to focus. Focusing on a feeling or image is also very powerful, especially when fresh. At the start of an endurance race, focus on mood words like, easy, smooth, powerful, relaxed, will help you to not interfere cognitively with your body’s natural ability to perform. In triathlon this would be relevant mostly in the swim & on the bike if a draft legal event. However, when fatigue sets in, it becomes useful to think objectively about what to do, especially if your form has deteriorated.

Bobby McGee – Bobby McGee Endurance Sports


  1. Bobby: Your latest blog could not have been better timed for me. Read it last week as I prepared for the Boulder 70.3. When I got out of T2 I was putting it to the test immediately. As you know I have not done much running this year (injury) and only ran 13 miles in training for the first time two weeks ago. Staying focused on just the running and telling the devil on the shoulder to quit telling me to quit helped me finish a very slow half marathon. But it was good enough for an AG win. Thanxs once again.


  2. Always a pleasure Simon. Congrats - I did not see you out there, but enjoyed the day anyway