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By Holley | In Psychology | on December 16, 2011

Despite all of the bad form we saw while watching the NLI competition last weekend, I saw something in a couple of advanced female athletes during the hang snatch portion of the competition at a level that I haven’t seen since watching Sean perform the clean ladder at the last NLI competition, FOCUS. It hit me again at that moment, the level of focus an athlete must have to become elite. It’s a trait we’re all aware of and a trait we’d all like to have, but mastering focus throughout an entire lift, from set up to finish, or an entire WOD, takes practice. With everything that happens in a day, it’s easy to get distracted and let your mind wander in the middle of a lift or workout. Maintaining good form throughout an entire lift or entire WOD requires focus and is important for hitting those PRs, improving efficiency and preventing injury. I decided to go searching for tips on how to stay focused and I found an article about cue statements on the Applied Sport Psychology website. In the article, a cue statement is defined as a short statement said to yourself to refocus your concentration. Below is a summary of how to create your cue statement:

  1. Personal – You need to find a cue statement that works for you! This could be a single word such as “tough” or “dominate” or a short series of words. One way to develop a personal cue statement is to ask the question, “If I were the best athlete I could be, how would I look and act?” Often times, as athletes are answering this question certain words and images emerge. Take time to think about how you would answer the above question because a statement that is believable and personal to you will be the most effective.
  2. Positive – To be effective in refocusing after mistakes, a cue statement should be positive. Negative self-talk has been linked to performance detriments and anxiety. Focus on what makes you the best you can be; do not spend time criticizing yourself.
  3. Short – The ideal cue statement allows you to quickly refocus but does not interfere with the necessary thoughts during performance. As mentioned earlier, some athletes prefer a single word such as “focus” while others use a short personal statement such as “strong, focused, in the game.”
An example of a cue statement that could be taken from this summary would be “calm, confident, in control.” Also in the article, they describe how best to use your cue statement when you find yourself losing focus mid-workout or competition.
  1. Inhale a breath through your nose lasting a count of 4.
  2. Hold the breath for 1-2 seconds.
  3. Exhale the breath through your mouth lasting a count of 4.
  4. While you are exhaling, state your refocusing cue in your mind.
  5. Allow the exhalation and cue statement to help you refocus on the competition.
The next time you walk up to a lift or hear 3-2-1 GO try out a cue statement and see if you find an improvement in your performance. Be patient with yourself because like any other skill, developing focus will take time and practice. What would your cue statement be? Better yet, has anyone else developed a different technique that helps them focus? Post your thoughts!

WOD 12.16.11
Bench press 3 x 5 or wendler
3 rounds:
400m run
21 KBS
12 Pull ups

3 Comments to "Focus"

  • Sean says:

    December 16, 2011 at 1:26 PM -

    Great post Holley! Already working on my cue statement. Something that helps me focus also is acting as my own positive coach. It helps me pay attention to the quality of my movement and gives me something to redirect my thoughts.

  • Michael H says:

    December 16, 2011 at 9:03 PM -

    GREAT post Holley. This is probably one of the hardest things for me to harness.. I catch myself wandering off a lot. See where everyone is, thinking about what I’m going to eat, and even coming up with the right string of code I’ve been stuck on all day.

  • Tom says:

    December 16, 2011 at 11:00 PM -

    Holley, this post really opened my eyes. I was just commenting the other day to somebody that I often head off to never-nerver land during a really tough WOD and lose track of how many rounds I’ve completed. Also, I have been known to fail to make that final rep during a set of lifts due to a lack of focus. What was I talking about again? Oh yeah FOCUS. Thank you.

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