Peripheral vision

My most recent blog post (last week – sorry for going AWOL) saw me reunited with a friend from my previous life as an endurance athlete. My triathlon bike and I have been out several times this week, making the most of a beautifully sunny March.

Sport brings us a lot of lessons. Exercise, working out, training: whatever you call it, if you’ve done it even once, I guarantee it opened your eyes to thoughts and feelings you hadn’t had before. Perhaps it was that first endorphin rush (it’s true! exercise really does make you feel good!), the realisation that you’re stronger than you think, the joy of finding something, some time, some space just for you.

This week, whilst out on my bike, I realised how different sports teach us different things, all of them important at different times. As yet another car passed by me so close that I could see my reflection in the bonnet and then see the items on the passenger seat, I got to thinking about peripheral vision.

Training in the gym, lifting weights, we tend to focus on one spot. Staring straight ahead (usually into the mirror, if you’re a bodybuilder), we shut out distractions, noises, movements at the edge of our vision. We need to focus.

This focus is no good out cycling on the road. Stare ahead with laser-beam vision and you’re likely to miss that car coming up behind you, the squirrel in the verge, or that pothole to your left.

Different sports, different ways of seeing.

Tapping into your peripheral vision is actually quite calming. When we’re stressed or anxious, we tend to stare straight ahead, unblinking, focused on one spot, ready to run. When we open up our vision to 180* (or more – you need eyes in the back of your head as a cyclist), we feel somehow calmer, shutting off internal dialogue and just enjoying the moment.

Of course, there is a time and a place for that narrow focus. Like when you’re getting ready to lift weights, standing on the start line of a race, preparing to compete. It’s just nice to open up our eyes from time to time and take a look around.

If you’re interested in this kind of thing, a great book to read is “Mental Mastery” by sports psychologist Ken Way. I mentioned it here and you can get hold of it here.

Do you notice things around you more when you do certain types of exercise?

Peripheral vision is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

3 Responses to Peripheral vision

  1. Vaguechera says:

    When I work with aerialists, we have to allow them time, when transferring the scaffold rig from inside the rehearsal room to outside, to adjust to their new surroundings and practice slowly before a show. Indoors they will have had walls and fixed points to focus on when learning all their moves and pathways (many of which include going upside down, or lots of balance) and in the outdoor setting they will have to get used to a whole new load of focus points and horizons, as well as a new sense of wide open space which can make them feel vulnerable at height at first. It doesn’t help that the wind makes the structure sway a bit too!


  2. Tara says:

    I can relate. I was a dancer for 13 years, and you have to have an incredible spatial awareness. When you’re competing, you have to focus not only on yourself but everyone else to make sure you’re all in perfect sync. But weight lifting is completely different. I have to drown out everyone else and focus on nobody but myself!


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