This study examined the effects of attentional focus on race walking performance. Sixteen experienced race walkers, eight males and eight females, were randomly assigned to walk four separate half-mile segments on a quarter-mile track under specific sets of instructions. Two sets of instructions were externally oriented and two were internally oriented. The internally oriented instructions included a set asking the subjects to focus on cadence (the number of steps taken in a designated period of time) and a set asking them to focus on stride length (the distance covered in a single step). The externally oriented instructions asked subjects to use a dissociative strategy. Although no overall difference was found between internal and external focus, results indicated that the focus on cadence was superior to both the external focus, p<.05, and a focus on stride length, p<.05. No significant differences between the stride length focus and the external focus were found. These results are discussed in terms of the importance of using an internal focus that is beneficial.
The authors are with the Department of Psychology at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, FL 33701-5016.