My Eyes Are Up Here


Matt Michaud

When quarantine first started I did a bit of daily trail running. One day, I was in the middle of a trail run at Vaughn Woods in South Berwick. I was on a huge wide trail, no people around, clear as day. I’m on the right side of the trail and I see about 100m away there is a huge tree branch that had fallen into the path. Obviously I don’t want to trip over the branch and I was determined not to. I focused on that branch and kept my eyes on it, repeating “Don’t trip on that branch” to myself over a dozen times. I was focused on that branch. About 100m later, I went “ass over tea kettle” right over it. Why?


As much as I was determined NOT to trip on the branch, the problem was my focus was on the branch itself and not what I should be doing to avoid tripping over it. I became distracted when I thought I was dialed in. Sometimes we can trick ourselves into thinking we are on track when we really are shooting off the mark.  Keep your focus on what you want. Keep your eyes on the prize and ask for feedback from your peers. They will often be the ones that will see your loss of focus before you do.


I see this all the time as a coach, when someone is attempting a lift like the overhead squat. If they are looking down at the ground, their body weight is going to shift forward and make their base pretty unstable. This really goes for any lift. Have you seen anyone perform a snatch in a weightlifting competition? They say that you can tell immediately if someone is going to make that lift or not by their set-up. The position of their head/eyes is no exception. Looking down, the bar will end up too far forward and they will lose their balance. If their head is facing up, then that bar is going to go too far back at the top of the movement and they’ll drop the bar behind them. Head should be straight, facing straight ahead, eyes looking right in the center judge’s eyes. I digress. In my example above, I was literally looking at the branch the entire time and not a way around it or over it. Had I taken a second to stop and evaluate and not rush, maybe the outcome would have been different. It never hurts to stop what you are doing and ask yourself if you are headed in the right direction.  


This applies to a lot of areas of life, even your goals. Focus on what you want. Focus on what you are trying to accomplish. In my example above, my goal was to complete my run without stopping and without getting hurt. This small shift of focus ended up derailing my mission for the temporary, but I was able to pick myself back up and continue onward. If you find yourself trailing off, looking down, making a choice you shouldn’t make, remember where your eyes and your focus should be. I’ve never met a failure that keeps trying. Use any small missteps as an opportunity to learn what to do the next go around.  Having a concrete goal in mind will help keep you from straying away from what you really want. Sometimes its hard to even realize what it is you are working toward. Nobody should feel like a hamster spinning a wheel and going nowhere. Do you have a purpose in why you train or workout? Do you have something to shoot for? Where is your focus? Do you even know? If not, that’s ok, but you should reach us for some free help.

Now I know that completing a trail run without tripping over a tree isn’t a huge thing to overcome, but it was meaningful enough that I was able to set the goal not to let it happen again. Before I went out for my next run I thought about what happened the time before and why I thought I was focused when I really wasn’t . When it came time to cross the elusive tree branch I had a solid plan in place and didn’t end up letting it get the best of me. 

I set my goal, remained focused on the right things and overcame a past failure.  

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