Inside the Ski Racing Mind: Pre-race Management


On race day, the time you spend before your race is the most crucial period of race preparation. All of the hours of training you spend in the gym and on the hill may go for naught if you do not use your pre-race time wisely. What you think, feel, and do before a race will dictate how well you ski in the race. This pre-race period should ensure that you are physically and mentally ready to ski your best consistently. All of your energy must be effectively directed toward achieving Prime Ski Racing.

To achieve Prime Ski Racing, you must do three things before a race: (1) Prepare your equipment; (2) Warm up your body completely and move toward prime intensity; and (3) Have prime confidence and focus. You can ensure this total preparation by actively taking control of your time and space before a race.

Key Pre-Race Factors

Start area space. Where you do your pre-race preparation can have an significant impact on your race readiness, particularly in how it affects your race focus. Some racers are easily distracted by all of the activity in and around the start area. The competitors, officials, and support people can draw your focus away from your preparation and putting on your “race face,” resulting in inadequate readiness and poor race performance. If this describes you, it is important for you to get away from this hub of activity and move off by yourself. By doing so, you can focus on what you need to in order to get ready.

Other racers are focused too inwardly, too aware of their thoughts, emotions, and how their body feels. This self-absorption usually results in negative thinking, increased anxiety, poor race focus, and subpar performance. If this describes you, it is best for you to stay around the start area activity. This draws your narrow focus outside yourself and, at the same time, allows you to focus sufficiently on your pre-race preparation.

Who to interact with. Another critical influence on your pre-race readiness is who you interact with prior to the start. You should only be around people who will assist you in your preparation including support staff, coaches, and positive and relaxed friends who help you become totally ready. You should actively avoid anyone who interferes with this process including chatty competitors, officials giving unwanted race information, and negative or nervous teammates or competitors.

In sum, specify what you need to do to be totally prepared to perform your best, decide where you can best accomplish your preparation, and identify who can assist and who will interfere with your preparation. With this information, you can develop an effective pre-race routine to ensure total preparation and Prime Ski Racing.

Pre-Race Routines

Why pre-race routines. Routines have many benefits to your pre-race preparation. They guarantee completion of every important aspect of race preparation. Routines build physical, mental, and emotional consistency. They enhance familiarity of competitive situations and decrease the likelihood of unexpected things occurring. Routines increase feelings of control, thereby raising confidence and reducing anxiety. Regardless of the importance of race, by using a well-practiced routine, you will condition your mind and body into feeling that this is just another race.

Prime Ski Racing funnel. A pre-race routine acts as a funnel, which involves a narrowing of effort, energy, and focus as you approach the start of the race. Each step closer to the race should lead you to that unique state of readiness in which you are physically, mentally, and emotionally primed to perform your best. What will emerge from this funnel is Prime Performance.

Components of a pre-race routine. Your pre-race routine should comprise everything that you need to do to be totally prepared for your race. This includes meals (e.g., healthy breakfast), course inspection (e.g., race tactics), equipment (e.g., skis properly tuned), physical warm-up (e.g., run, stretch, adjust intensity), and mental preparation (e.g., mental imagery, positive thinking, race focus).

Developing a pre-race routine. Though the above factors are common to most if not all pre-race routines, there is no one ideal routine that works for everyone. In other words, routines are very personal. They should reflect your own individual personality and style.

To develop an effective personalized pre-race routine, you can use the following guidelines. First, write down what you need to do before a race to be totally prepared. Second, using your knowledge of pre-race activities and start area space, order your needs chronologically leading up to the start of the race and specify where each step of your routine can be best accomplished. Third, experiment with your routine at subsequent races. You will probably have to fine tune it until you find a routine that you are completely comfortable with. Finally, routines only have value if used consistently. If you ask World Cup racers about their routines, most will describe one that they have been using for years. So make a routine a part of your race preparation and it will assist you in achieving your own Prime Ski Racing.

Ligety image by Gepa

Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. Watch my 2010 Winter Olympics Discovery Channel interview on fear in high-risk winter sports here.

Dr. Jim Taylor drjimtaylor.com,
knows the psychology of ski racing! He competed internationally for
Burke Mtn. Academy, Middlebury College, and the University of Colorado.
For the past 25 years, Dr. Jim has worked with many of America’s leading
junior race programs as well as World Cup competitors from many
countries. He is the author of
Prime Ski Racing Triumph of the Racer’s Mind. Dr. Jim is also the author of two parenting books and speaks regularly to parents, students, and educators around the U.S..

Click here to view the Inside the Ski Racing Mind archive

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