How Sacred is Your Focus?
Written by TJ O’Brien

In other words, how important is it to you that you aren’t interrupted during a workout?

There is a couple named Kate and Dan who come to the 6am sessions. They have been members from quite literally the very beginning of Invictus. They are THE SHIT. They work hard with little pretense and they acknowledge that their fitness and hour in the gym are just one component of a complex and happy life.

Now I hope I’ve padded the complementary coffers enough with this prelude of praise, because this post will include a small anecdote from their interaction in the gym.

It was a very specific moment in between rounds of a tough interval workout. In that moment, Kate asked Dan a logistical question about the workout (I don’t recall what it was, but it’s not really important). And Dan was a little **peeved because this question broke his focus.

Before you jump all over Dan for this, let me give you some context. This was an interval workout where the time domain is so short that you get very little rest between sets. And to further Dan’s defense, I can say that in my personal experience, my workout (and writing, and reading, and uh-oh, I might be guilty of this too…) focus is very sacred.

It was right in this moment that I poked some fun at Dan and asked him, “Come on now, how sacred is your focus?”


Thirty days ago I started a Headspace course on focus. This pack of sessions included a visualization where one imagined a ball of light moving and then pausing at different points in the body. The goal: find a flow-state where you slowly and steadily imagine the movement of that ball of light, staying curious about how it feels at each point it lands.

Eventually the course incorporated a homework exercise as well: Find a smooth rock or pebble, place it on a table or uncluttered surface, and focus on it for 10-20 seconds. Then, take a glance around the room and relax for a moment before bringing your focus back for another 10-20 seconds.

Natural Focus

The goal of each exercise was to develop a “natural focus.” One that felt second nature or effortless. That homework exercise with the pebble – it’s got direct application to the gym and to our story with Dan.

It isn’t necessarily the focus part that is hard, especially when it’s “do or don’t” in the middle of a MetCon. You’ve got no choice but to have a single-track mind when you’re exercising intensely, especially if the movements you’re doing are even remotely technical.

This is the power of exercise, it snaps you right into the here and now. But what about the inevitable interruptions from our kids, our wife, our coach, or even someone hollering “good job!”

Freely Moving In & Out of Focus

It’s not ONLY how deep we can focus, but how quickly and freely we can move in and out of intense focus, that marks how well we can perform in workouts, in competition, and who are we kidding, in LIFE!

Life is full of distractions, and often we have to tend to those distractions before we can carry on. My ask of you: assess how sacred your focus is during your next workout. How readily can you crack a joke and then immediately flip the switch and go hard again?

This is the stuff beyond thrusters and pull-ups. It’s the stuff between the ears that you can apply well after you’ve stood up from your pile of sweat and walked out the door.