Preparing for Winter Sports — Is there a Way to Keep the Mind in the Game?
As the slopes open and winter sports season begins in earnest, the mental component of your preparation for winter sports competition is worth considering. While the levels differ depending on the sport, there’s an inherent amount of risk involved in winter sports. A downhill skier hurtles down a mountain at blazing speeds with frightening turns and stomach churning drops. Mistakes in such an event can carry drastic repercussions in broken bones and torn ligaments.
The snowboarder faces similar difficulties when entering a half pipe. The spins, grabs, and flips require precision and alignment for a clean landing. Missing such a landing risks pain and intense injury.
Even though all athletes risk injury in practice and during performance, it seems as if winter sports possess a higher level of danger, which can lead to debilitating mental blocks. It is, after all, natural for your brain to kick up to higher fear levels when it’s doing something extreme.
So how can an athlete harness these feelings and channel them into high performance?
Winter Mental Imagery
Well, as we’ve mentioned before, visualization is key. Expanding your mental capacities and providing imagery about the techniques you will soon perform have shown the ability to help athletes prepare their bodies and minds for what is ahead. Unleashing that killer trick in the half pipe or planting a ski before a critical turn in your mind will actually help your muscles achieve that activity when it happens. So walk the track in the morning before the event. You’d be surprised to see how many Olympic athletes are up at the track, miming their motions before the event.
Sports psychology actually suggests that using such imagery will train muscles so it’s important for your visualizations to be positive, accurate, and focused to achieve the desired results.
Nicole Detling, a sports psychologist for the U.S. Olympic team even proposes that athletes map out their run with scripts that define “Point A to Point Z.” No matter the sport, this process needs to be a part of your preparation.
But even more importantly for winter sports, mental edge allows the body to overcome the natural fear that could overtake an individual in such high-octane environments. There can be no doubt in your mind as you set an edge or drop in to the half pipe. It can be the difference between winning the race and coming up a second behind. It can mean the difference between landing the trick and under rotating. It can also mean the difference between success and a long-term injury.
So next time you hit the slopes, write up your performance plan from point a to point z, get there early and walk the course, visualizing each turn or each trick, and finally, drop in with the confidence that you can win because you’ve been there before.