Dr. Duncan Simpson on Training Your Mind and Why Focus is the Top Mental Skill

Skills, by definition, are learned abilities that can be well executed. This means that skills can be practiced and mastered over time. Are you currently working on a specific skill?

Mental skills for runners

Mental skills are unique in that they aren’t overtly visible. Unlike physical skills, such as the ability to run a sub-5 minute mile or hurdle a barrier, the brain doesn’t parade its abilities. It is only through action (or inaction) that we can make guesses about what might be going on internally.

Seeing a runner get angry when a race start is delayed might lead us to conclude that they lack the ability to manage their anxiety. Hearing of unfinished laps or miles may indicate that an athlete is struggling with mental toughness. And a runner who shies away from setting a time goal for a race could benefit from greater confidence.

All those skills are certainly important but one stands out as the unifying mental skill: Focus.

Focusing on the bigger picture, the single next step, the goal, and the process. Focus is the ability to direct attention on what’s important at a given time.

Learn More Mental Skills

The mental skills mentioned above are precisely the ones that we teach in our Mindset Mastery program.

If you’re not ready for an entire course, we have plenty of free resources for you to learn more about the mental game of running, including The Strength Running Podcast.

In today’s episode, we’re exploring focus from the perspective of an expert sports psychologist who believe that this is the top mental skill.

Why Focus on Focus – Dr. Duncan Simpson Explains

Duncan SimpsonDr. Duncan Simpson has a PhD in Sport Psychology and is the Director of Personal Development at IMG Academy, a multi-sport training institution in Florida. He has worked with children, high school students, and professional and Olympic athletes in a range of sports.

Duncan was formerly an Associate Professor in the Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology Program at Barry University. He is also a certified consultant with the Association of Applied Sport Psychology.

Given his experience and education, Duncan possesses a deep knowledge of the mental game that athletes are faced with. In our conversation, Duncan covers a variety of mental skills and how athletes utilize them to gain a performance advantage.

He highlights the value of focus as a critical mental skill. You can hear a clip of Duncan talking about it below:

Check out the full episode for other tips on:

  • Creating short- and long-term focus
  • Avoiding external distractions
  • Doing self-assessments
  • And how to apply it all to your own running

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Links & Resources from the Show:

Thank you Elemental Labs!

Elemental Labs

A big thanks to Elemental Labs for their support of this episode! They make electrolyte drinks for athletes and low-carb folks with no sugar, artificial ingredients, or colors.

They’re also offering free product: just pay for shipping and you can get their sample pack including 8 packets of citrus, raspberry, unflavored, and orange salt varieties.

Elemental Labs’ products have some of the highest sodium concentrations that you can find. Anybody who runs a lot knows that sodium, as well as other electrolytes like magnesium and potassium, are essential to our performance and how we feel throughout the day.

The citrus flavor has quickly become my favorite and I’m drinking one a day now to help me get enough fluids in our dry Colorado air. It’s tasty and delicious and I find that I’m not peeing every 45 minutes throughout the day, which might be an indication I wasn’t eating enough sodium.

There’s now mounting evidence that higher sodium intake levels are not unhealthy – and athletes need substantially more than your typical sedentary person. Of course, ask your doctor if you’re worried. But for those athletes running outside in the heat, an electrolyte replacement makes a lot of sense.

So check out Elemental Labs to try their sample pack for free and get your hydration optimized for the upcoming spring season.

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