Focusing on focus
I enjoy a life of purpose and possibility. I work a lot, but I love what I do — and I’m helping other people love what they do. When I’m not working, I’m doing my best to be a great father and husband. When I ride outside of my “job,” it’s for training — body, mind and spirit — and it happens near home, and it has to be efficient. Since I do the same things over and over, my adventures occur in nuance.
I’m blessed with some kind of abundant chi, or extra battery or bonus kung fu. When I’m focused I can bring a lot of power to what I’m doing. When I’m not focused, or my energy is stuck, it courses through my body as pain. Sometimes viscous and dull, other times piercing and white hot. Not pleasant. Not rad. I’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, but the drugs made me dumb and I was still suffering. Whatever. Decent sleep and lots of “training” helps keep the energy under control. The more I engage my body and mind, the better I feel.
I recently rode some downhill runs with my old friend Curtis Keene. When I first met him he was a fast electrician; now he’s a Red Bull enduro god. Among other things (holy crap he’s fast!), time at his cruising speed (my max speed) showed me I don’t have top-end fitness. That makes sense because I haven’t been training intensity, but this won’t suffice.
So lately I’ve been adding Red Intervals to my routine. Red Intervals are above your threshold, but below your peak power. They are hard. You don’t give yourself full recovery. As you do reps, it gets harder and harder. Red Intervals are the most difficult thing to make yourself do — but they are extremely effective for building top-end fitness. Red Intervals are a cornerstone of the Prepare to Pin It on-bike training program.
Ride the dog downhill for a while, then do an easy 10-minute climb. At the top do five minutes of multi-planar lunges then five minutes of lifting a rock in various ways. Depending on the day, the rock is 30 or 70 pounds. This gets me good and warm. Tie the dog to a sign (he hangs out in the grass) and get to work:
Pin it uphill for about a minute
Coast down for about 30 seconds
Repeat for a set of five efforts
Five more minutes with the rock
Another set of five uphill efforts
Five more minutes with the rock
Do the easy climb again with the dog
Physical therapy in the driveway
Some RipRow work
And I’m good and done
Bike: Specialized Fuse Pro with 3.0 tires and Saint flat pedals. I wear baggy clothes with Lycra underneath and a pair of Keen sandals. I try to be about love and empowerment, but I do love to reel in roadies. They look at the tires, the hairy legs, the shoes … all shifting red as I pass.
I of course want to ride as fast as possible, as smooth as possible, and find the right balance of power and repeatability. This training is as much mental as it is physical. I’ve done myriad reps focusing on my feet or ankles or knees or hips or spine or shoulders or earlobes. The other day I let my body do what it’s trained to do, and I focused on my focus.
Interval 1: Go! Eyes focused hard on a spot beyond the finish line. Hammer hammer hammer, but it feels … hard. Time: 58 seconds.
Interval 2: Go. Eyes as soft as I can make them. Not looking at anything, but seeing everything. It feels … soft. Easy. The interval felt great, but it was a bit slower. 1:02.
The book Mastering Mountain Bike Skills 3rd Edition talks about hard vs. soft focus. What about medium focus?
Interval 3: Go. Eyes focused beyond the end, but with a medium focus. Looking at it, seeing it, but not staring at it. It feels … medium. And the time was 55 seconds.
Hmm. Focusing on focus.
Do the rest of the efforts with medium focus. Looking to the end, seeing the end, but also seeing everything. Body moving as it’s been taught. Energy flowing. Finishing the workout faster than I started it.
I’ll bet I ride real terrain with medium focus. I’ll focus on that next time.
When you train and ride, where’s your focus?
Know more. Have more fun!
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This is DEEP sir!
I found that getting in to DH this year has helped me look ahead and not right what’s at me. This is paying off in dividends on my drop practice, dual slalom, and cornering.
For trails, I still get “stuck” visually. I’m hoping to work on that more in the fall when DH season is over.