Focus Is A Muscle, Flex It

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I recently had the pleasure of talking to a number of people about the power of our brain and how important it is to make sure we ‘train the brain’ just as much as we train our body. One of the key take home messages was that our ability to concentrate for sustained periods of time is a skill, just like catching a ball, doing a handstand or balancing on one leg. 

If we know we can improve all skills by practicing, it makes sense to treat concentration and our ability to concentrate when we need it most in a very similar way. We’ve all heard it before - practice the way you want to play. This rings true for everything - concentration is no different.

Neuroscience has shown that every time we perform an activity, we activate the brain and all other neural pathways associated with that particular activity. From this, we can understand how important it is to mould our behaviour at any given time around our desired behavior. In essence, this means that we MUST practice the way we want to play, especially in everyday life! 

Exercise provides a unique opportunity for us to ‘flex our focus muscle’. It’s all too often that we complete our training programs, at home sessions or group fitness classes without having really worked on the smaller things that make a difference. We’ve all had the following conversations with ourselves:

‘Just get through it - it doesn't matter if it isn’t my best effort.’ 

‘How much longer - I can’t be bothered anymore.’

‘No one will notice if I don't do the last rep - I’m training on my own.” 

It’s in these conversations that we need to start making better choices. Neuroplasticity suggests that we can change the way our brains are wired. The more we perform an exercise or thought, the better our ability to remember that neural pathway and identify movements or feelings associated with it. Knowing this, it’s more important than ever to mould our behaviour on the best version of ourselves at every opportunity. Training is no different. In fact, it’s probably one of the most important times to do so. We must use the wonders of neuroplasticity to our advantage and constantly strengthen neural pathways that will enable us to perform better in the workplace, at home or in any other endeavour. 

Manifest vigilance.

Before your next session, commit to being the best you can for that hour of the day. Use your training time to exercise the power of paying attention. Don’t settle for a bad rep. Don’t give in to the voice in your head telling you to stop. Use this time to practice the skill of paying attention and focus on every little detail that you can.

You’ll thank yourself later.

- Rory Maguire

Joseph Agresta