Building concentration skills for racing

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Along with physical skills, strong mental skills are essential for peak performance. It is the mind that often holds us back.

In the heart of a race many things compete for your attention, distracting you from your goal objective. With strong concentration skills you can focus your thought and attention on performance, ignoring distractions.

When 2002 Ultraman winner Gordo Byrn was asked what he thought about during the 10K swim, he replied "my stroke."

During the preseason, physical training is focused on building general fitness. As the race season rolls around, training becomes more specifically geared toward race performance. Mental training follows the exact same pattern of general to specific, from preseason to peak season.

A general mental training ability to practice during the preseason is concentration. Many race-specific skills such as self-talk control, focus under pressure and mental imagery are built using concentration skills.

With excellent concentration skills you can control what thoughts are present in your mind and focus your attention where you desire.

Here is a sample exercise:

Count your pulse for 60 seconds without thinking about anything else. If other thoughts wander into your mind, start over. The goal is to have 60 continuous seconds with your complete attention focused on one task. This exercise builds the skills of attention focusing, distraction filtering, thought control and self-talk control.

For an advanced exercise, maintain your concentration uninterrupted for five minutes.

For an expanded version of this article, with additional exercises, go here.

Lynda Wallenfels is a USA Cycling and USA Triathlon certified coach and an Ultrafit Associate. Her new book "The Triathlete's Guide to Bike Training" will be published in the spring. For more information about Lynda and her coaching services go to her Web site at or contact her at

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