What are you paying attention to?

What do you pay attention to when you exercise?

“for anyone trying to discern what to do w/ their life: PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU PAY ATTENTION TO. that’s pretty much all the info u need.” - Amy Krouse Rosenthal


What do you pay attention to when you exercise? When you practice your favorite sport? When you set out aimlessly for an afternoon outdoors?


The benefits of bringing your attention to the present moment have been well-described. Science, religion, ethics – all agree that we are the best expression of ourselves when we live in and give attention to right now.


In the sport & fitness world, pretty much every coach, trainer, and experienced practitioner will agree that focused attention is crucial to success.


But even when we are steeped in the present moment, there are literally infinite things we can point our attention towards. And what exactly we choose to pay attention to can tell us a lot about who we areas an athlete.


For example, a runner can pay attention to their legs as they traverse the neighborhood trail. But what about their legs is the point of focus?


Are they focusing on the burning sensation of effort? The sensation of their feet contacting the ground with each stride? The sensation of elastic energy as their gait adapts to the terrain? The tightness or pain in an aggravated hamstring?...


The things we pay attention to shape our sport & exercise experience in important ways. Simply being present is a great starting point in our efforts to gain experience, skill, and enjoyment – but it is only the first step.


Even more, we must pay attention to what we are paying attention to.


Sometimes we become so focused on one part of the body tha twe forget how bodies move – as an integrated whole. Other times we struggle to connect with sensations in one area because we are so distracted by another body part that is sensitized or injured. There are also moments when we might become so absorbed in ourselves that we lose track of what’s happening around us.


At our best, we intuitively direct our attention towards the most relevant and beneficial elements of our practice. The challenge, of course, is knowing what those relevant and beneficial elements are.


This is why we must take the time to reflect on where we direct our attention. With a meta-perspective (and some practice!), we gain insight into our movement habits, tendencies, and though patterns surrounding sport & exercise.


What are you paying attention to?