Resident MotoOnline.com.au coach Lee Hogan outlines the importance of mental preparation.
It seems to be common knowledge that the body needs to be exercised and trained correctly to compete at high levels of sport, however it is becoming evident more and more these days that the mind is equally important in your quest for success!
There are many tell-tale giveaway signs of a weak mind, or untrained mind, in sport. It doesn’t matter if you are watching an international tennis tournament, or an AMA Supercross main event, the signs are very similar.
Costly mistakes when the pressure is on, failure to rise to the occasion and momentary lapses of concentration are to name a few. So many times I have been witness, and also guilty myself, of making a stupid mistake half way through a race resulting in a crash.
To the average spectator watching it will look like the rider has just started to fade, or lose fitness, when in reality the rider is still full of energy. The rider will pick their bike up and commence a charge back up through the pack with plenty of energy to spare. The only logical answer is the rider had a lapse in concentration. Even a minor one is enough to cause a crash and wreck your momentum.
For a lot of top Motocross riders out there, the boredom of doing 35 minute training sessions on the bike is a lot more difficult than the fitness element of the ride itself. The reason for this is that most riders, whether we are talking elite professional racers or the average weekend punter realise that you have to do a bit of fitness work to be competitive on the motorbike. Not so with the psychological aspect of the sport.
So now we have established what needs to be done it’s time to figure out how to best train your mind for success in sport. The first and most important thing to do is to be able to concentrate for long periods of time without drifting off with the fairies.
A great mind exercise to get you started while also incorporating balance is to get yourself one of those blow up exercise balls that you find at a gym. Find a comfortable spot out of everyone’s way and find your balancing point while kneeling on the ball with no hands.
At first it will seem hard just to balance without falling, but with practice you will soon be able to balance for long periods of time no problem at all. Once you have this down pat, it’s time to see how long you can go without losing concentration.
Five minutes is a good starting point, but before too long you should be extending that to up around 15 to 20 minutes. For riders participating in 35 minute national races, they should try to replicate these times for their mind training also.
Most people when first attempting this form of exercising will be quite surprised at how quickly their mind drifts off to something else. The trick is to pick a spot on the floor and focus on that. When your mind drifts off to something else other than what you are doing, just regain your focus on the job at hand.
Just like an unfit person who has done limited fitness training, you wouldn’t expect to be able to punch out a marathon in the first month of training. Likewise, don’t expect miracles to happen in your initial stages of psychological training. You will get great results but it will take time.
The second step in gaining rock solid concentration is to ad intensity to the concentration exercises. One of the most difficult times to stay focused on the bike is when your body is working close to it’s maximum and is fatigued.
So in order to replicate this off the bike, it’s best to use a stationary cycle down the gym and put yourself through an extremely difficult session of similar duration to your ‘on bike’ races. When you start going through lots of pain while training, most people try to block it out and think about something else.
You will try to do whatever it takes to make the time pass quicker and get the pain over and done with. Well on the bike, you can’t just block it out and think of something else to make time pass quicker because you will highly likely step over the bars.
The trick is to try to keep your concentration and focus even while training at extremely difficult levels. If you thought that balancing on the exercise ball for long periods of time was difficult, well it doesn’t even compare with this. Once again, start small and work your way up.
Another area on the race track that seems to cause problems for most riders is when they are involved in a tight battle that can sometimes result in bike contact. If you are the type of rider who trains on the bike during the week by themselves then chances are you will prefer to ride around on race day by yourself trying to avoid those intense ‘on track’ battles that can erupt from time to time.
A good way to prepare yourself for these race day battles is to train with someone very similar in speed during the week. Practicing block passes and basically just getting yourself comfortable with having another rider constantly in close proximity to you. You will be surprised at how much more comfortable you will quickly become battling with riders on race day.
Well there you have it. Just a few different drills and exercises that will help you with the constant mind games played in our sport in particular. Good luck and remember, you will only get out of it what you put in.