Inside the Ski Racing Mind: Finish the Season Strong!
It’s mid March and the end of the race season is in sight. Most of the big races, including U16 and U18 championships, are in your rearview mirror. A few of you may still have U.S. Nationals or Whistler Cup to look forward to. But most of you may be inclined to think of your season as pretty much over. That would be a mistake!
Yes, we are in the final stretch of the season. You may be tired of the grind. You may look back at the season thus far with either satisfaction or disappointment. You may be jonesing to get on your mountain bike, surfboard, or just veg out for a while.
But if you check out with a month of racing to go, you’re doing a disservice to all of the effort you’ve put into your racing so far. If you’ve had a great season, why not see if you can make it even better. If you’ve had a disappointing season, it’s not too late to turn it around.
If you can continue to be fired up and focused on your skiing, while so many racers have already shut down mentally for the season, you put yourself in a great position to ski fast, get some good results, and either achieve new and higher goals or accomplish the goals that have eluded you so far this season. Remind yourself that you still have up to 20 percent of the race season left for good things to happen.
With a number of races left on the schedule (one racer I work with has 10 more races; that’s a lot!), this is a great time to recommit, re-energize, and finish strong.
The challenge, of course, is how to do this given that you may be physically burned out, mentally dulled, and emotionally worn down. Here are a few ideas.
First, take a few days off. As I just mentioned, you are probably pretty cooked physically and mentally from the grind of the season. By staying off skis for a few days (and, ideally, doing something fun and different), you allow your body and mind to rest, rejuvenate, and recharge. This short break will set you up nicely for the final push to the end of the season.
At this point in the season, it’s easy to lose sight of why you ski race. So many of the messages you get from your parents and coaches (and even yourself) are about results, points, rankings, and qualifying for this or that race series. But I’m guessing that, though those matter to you, they’re not why you ski race. If you’re like most of the racers I work with (and many more that I know), you ski race because you love being out there. You love challenging yourself to get better. You love competing. You love the feeling of arcing an incredible turn. You love going fast. And you love being in the mountains.
That feeling of love is what you need to reconnect with to finish the race season strong. Over the next few days, remind yourself of your love of ski racing. Close your eyes and imagine that awesome feeling of ripping through a course. When you’re on snow, feel the joy of being outdoors and making good turns. When you reconnect with your love of ski racing, you re-ignite the fire in your belly that will propel you through your last race run of the season.
Next, stop thinking about results. I know that might sound weird because results are king in the ski racing world. But, paradoxically, by not focusing on results, you are actually more likely to get the results you want.
Think of it this way. If you’ve had a great season, you’ve already banked the points and rankings you need to set yourself up for next year. Any more good results will just be icing on the cake. If you’ve had a subpar season, you’ve got nothing to lose. I say forget about results and set your mind on one simple thing: Ski as fast as you can, regardless of the outcome! If you really go for it in every race run until the end of the season, I’m guessing that you will put a few races together and get the results you wanted in the first place.
One way to help you ski fast is to forget about technique and tactics. I don’t mean stop skiing technically and tactically well; you need both to ski fast. What I am saying is that, by focusing too much on technique and tactics and not enough on just going fast, you prevent yourself from learning the skill of going fast (yes, speed is a skill). Also, realistically, the chances are if you don’t have something down technically and tactically this late in the season, you won’t get it by the end of the season. Best to save new technical and tactical changes for your summer on-snow training. For now, think speed, speed, speed.
Finally, what I am recommending is that you toss everything about your skiing out the window except two things. First, strap your love of ski racing to your back and let it propel you like a jet engine to the end of the season. Second, make speed the only thing on your mind in your training and remaining races. If you feel the love and the speed, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that some good things are going to happen this last month of the 2012-13 race season.
Jim Taylor, Ph.D., competed internationally while skiing for BurkeMtn. Academy, Middlebury College, and the University of Colorado. Overthe last 25 years, he has worked with the U.S. and Japanese Ski Teams,many World Cup and Olympic racers, and many of the leading junior race programs in the U.S. and Canada. Jim is the author of Prime Ski Racing: Triumph of the Racer's Mind, produces the Mental Edge for Alpine Ski Racing Relaxation and Imagery mp3 recordings, and publishes bi-monthly e-newsletters for sport, business, and parenting. You can read Jim's past skiracing.com here. To learn more or to contact Jim, visit his website.