Visualize/Prepare for Success
We have entered the competition season and our training sessions are beginning to ramp up. Watching the last two weekends of competition has shown me an aspect of our preparation that needs improvement. I see two things that I hope you will share with your athlete(s).
First, athletes should train like it’s a race. Too often, I hear it’s “just training”. These words potentially will create race “jitters” for a young athlete and impede performance. As an athlete a better approach is to come out for every training session with the same sense of importance as a race day. Create routines in preparation on training days that will help on race day. Here are some suggestions that might help your athlete establish routines to achieve success.
1) Athletes should get a good sleep before training and wake up early enough to allow for a good breakfast, a breakfast that will provide long lasting nutritious energy. I will never forget the day that a young mountain biker ate a big breakfast burrito less than an hour before his start. Guess where that burrito ended up. Avoid simple sugars and strive for a balance of slow burning carbs (oatmeal, fruits) and protein.
2) Arrive at training in plenty of time, allowing the athlete to be focused on training. Avoiding the distractions of “rushing” will help the athlete to be focused on the session. Just like going to the airport, if you can keep things calm in the time sense, then stress is reduced allowing athletes to have a better experience.
3) Be prepared for the session. Bring snacks and water, have skis waxed and tuned, take a bathroom stop before leaving the lodge, and dress appropriately for the weather using layering.
These simple steps will really help your athletes get the most out of training, thus getting the most out of competition.
Next I would like to talk about the technique of imagery or visualization. At any event, whether it’s ski racing, slopestyle, or Big Mountain, athletes get a chance to inspect the venue before the competition. Inspection is super important and the techniques used are imagery and memorization. First the athlete must memorize the venue and then imagery will consist of tactical, technical, and physical components. As athletes inspect they should be committing the venue to memory. Where are the turns? What do they look like? How will the body move and feel during the run? Athletes with established inspection skills will be seen with heads down, eyes closed “running the course” in their mind over and over again. They do this during inspection, they do this during warm-up, and they will do this right before the start. Hands and body will sway back and forth to the rhythm of the venue. Here are some useful tips for implementing imagery. 1) Athletes must focus during inspection, paying attention to all the details of the venue. 2) If possible, athletes should stand exactly on the line they chose to ski. This will give them the mental images that they need. The body will go where the vision/images lead. If an athlete inspects the course while standing 20 feet away from where they will be skiing they will not have a clear picture of where the body needs to be during the run and will probably not be able to ski the right line. The goal here is to get athletes to stand and slip following the correct line. Then they should replay those collected images over and over again until the run starts. Each time you replay the run in the mind the athlete imagines that they “nail it”!
For those freeriders who say that this is a racers technique I would like to debunk this thought. When I traveled to Whistler I helped my friend Brian inspect a very intense line. Brian and I spent a great deal of time watching and looking at the line and came up with a plan. Then Brian (the trained gymnast) would close his eyes and go through the body movements required for his run. Brian was using imagery skills he learned from gymnastics and was visualizing success for hours before the run. The footage is floating around the valley. Brian threw a “heli” off a 60 footer and then threw a front layout off an 80 footer. Brian landed the 80 footer exactly on the spot in the snowdrift that we had looked at for so long. His imagery skills were perfect and his run that day was ground breaking for the sport.
In closing, I would hope that we can all work together to help our young athletes develop routines for preparation and develop imagery skills. Google visualization in sport or try this article http://skiracing.com/?q=node/9676 by Dr. Jim Taylor.
Train like you race! Visualize Success!