Editor’s Note: This is an encore presentation of a previously published article that never gets old.
The race season is finally over. After a long and demanding winter, you’re probably tired of skiing (regardless of whether the season was a triumph or a disappointment). It’s time to hang up your skis, pack away your gear, kick back, relax, and forget about ski racing for a few months, right? WRONG!!!
Being the best ski racer you can be is not a part-time activity. It requires a year-round commitment and consistent effort in your physical, technical, tactical, and, yes, mental training. If you’re a ski racer serious about achieving your competitive goals, the end of the race season simply means it’s time to start your preparations for next season. After a short period of rest and relaxation, say, a week or two, you need to begin your planning and your training that will get you ready to continue your progress toward your goals next winter.
Evaluate This Past Season
The first thing you want to do is to look back on the recently completed race season and evaluate how you did. Here are several questions to ask yourself (and your coaches):
- Did you improve physically, technically, tactically, and mentally?
- Did you achieve the results you wanted (if not, why not)?
- Did you make progress toward your long-term goals?
- What did you do well?
- What areas do you need to improve on?
With these questions answered, you can, in collaboration with your coaches, decide what in your training worked and what did not. You can then, again with your coaches, use this information to create an off-season training program to build on your strengths and alleviate your weaknesses.
To help you figure out how to work on all of these areas, write down your goals for next season. The first goal you should look at is your long-term goal, that is, what you ultimately want to accomplish in your ski racing. Ask yourself whether that “dream” goal needs to be changed (upward or downward) or are you still on track for it. Next, set a seasonal goal for what you want to accomplish next winter in terms of results, rankings, etc.
Then, using the information you gained from your evaluation of last year and feedback from your coaches, set specific goals for your physical conditioning, technical and tactical development, and mental training to achieve those goals. These goals should be specific (e.g., amount of weight lifted, frequency of workouts) and structured into a weekly training plan. The idea is that every day when you get up, you know exactly what you need to do that day to progress toward your goals.
Mental Muscles and Mental Tools
The off season is the ideal time to work on the mental side of your ski racing. Here’s my challenge to you: If you’re not engaged in a regular mental training program, you’re just not doing everything you can to achieve your ski racing goals!
Motivation. Your ability to commit to the goals that you set will depend on how motivated you are to put in the hard work, even when you’re tired, bored, or wanting to do things that are much more fun.
Develop an organized weekly training program to help you build your training into your daily activities. If you have a plan, you’re more likely to stick to it. Also, find a training partner to work out with; you’ll be less likely to skip workouts when you feel unmotivated because your partner will be counting on you and you’ll work harder because someone is pushing you to do that extra rep, set, or drill. And post reminders where you can see them of your biggest competitors (“Am I working harder than them?”), racers whom you admire, or inspirational quotes that fire you up.
Confidence. A major purpose of off-season training is to build confidence. Think of it as putting money in the bank: The more confidence “money” you deposit now, the bigger confidence “debits” you’ll be able to write next winter. If you’re working hard and improving during the off-season, when the winter begins, you’ll have the confidence that you have done everything possible to ski your best and achieve your goals.
Intensity and focus. An important off-season goal for you is to identify and learn to control your intensity (e.g., get fired up or calmed down) and focus (e.g., avoid distractions). You can work on developing your intensity and focus muscles during both physical conditioning and on-snow training (more on that in future articles).
Mental imagery. Mental imagery is perhaps the most powerful tool you can use in your mental training during the off-season. Mental imagery, which involves regularly imagining yourself in different training and race situations, is like weight training for the mind, it can strengthen your technical, tactical, competitive, performance, and mental “muscles.” I will go into more detail about mental imagery in a future article.
Getting going for next season starts with that first step of deciding how important ski racing is to you. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- How big are your ski racing goals for next season?
- How hard are your competitors going to be working in the off-season?
- How badly do you want it?!?!
The key to achieving your goals next winter is to start now! Talk is cheap. It’s easy to say you want to be a great ski racer; it’s an entirely different thing to actually do the work necessary. If your goals are at all high, the only chance you will have is to commit to intensive off-season physical, on-snow, and mental training programs. Your goal when you get in the starting gate of your first race next season is to be able to say: “I’m as prepared as I can be to achieve my goals.” And, with all of that hard work in the off-season that you “deposited in the bank,” the chances are you will be successful and reach your goals.
Want to make mental training a part of your off-season training program? Take a look at my online mental training courses.