Focus and awareness...how I train my thoughts
Success at micro sprint and mini sprint race car driving is a result of a lot more than natural talent. Many people have the natural talent to become a successful driver. The difference between a great race car driver and one who just has talent is mental and physical fitness, confidence, the ability to learn, acceptance in the community, persistence and determination. Your focus on these factors will directly affect the success of your racing career.
You don’t need a lot of strength to be a good race car driver but you must be physically fit. Although cardiovascular and weight training will help us become better drivers, it does not take much to get the job done. In fact, excessive weight training that results in Mr. Universe type muscles is detrimental to a driver. The purpose here is to get the muscles and cardiovascular system into good physical shape, and the heart, lungs and oxygen carrying vessels ready for combat.
There are two reasons why this is so important. A muscle and cardio system that is fit will be able to control the movement of the car more precisely for longer periods of time in normal and extreme conditions (hot, cold, and high g-forces). Second, better physical conditioning of the body means the mind works better and the communications between the mind and the body are faster, more efficient, resulting in better decision making and quicker reaction time. This is a physiological fact. As you exercise your are building the nerve system stronger and faster than it was before. As you race your mind needs to be as clear and as focused as possible in order to have a high degree of situational awareness.
Racing requires such a high degree of intense concentration and focus that there is no possible way that you can have “fun” out on the race track, the fun comes after the race. In fact, your mind has to be completely clear, no thoughts, except for under caution when you need to think about which adjustments to make. This focus, awareness, and concentration are among the things that I train my brain for as I work out. Get intense and get focused. Weight training, bicycle riding, running, racquetball, brisk walking, mountain biking, and swimming are all good conditioners.
If you want to do weight training, join a local gym. They usually provide a trainer to teach you the correct way to lift weights. If you don’t learn the correct way to lift, you may do more damage than good. I personally own a Trek bike (just like Lance Armstrong) and ride it three times a week. I ride and average of 60 miles a week. In the winter I run. If I had time I would love to do more. Once you start getting in shape your realize and feel the benefits immediately. 60 miles is not a lot, Lance rides 100 miles a day.
Eat to Win
Here is an article I wrote on controlling your weight and being healthy. EAT TO WIN. Eating right is essential to your body having the energy to work out and to race. Don’t eat fatty heavy foods (hamburgers and french fries) within two hours of a race. It will force all the blood to your digestive system and away from your brain. I bring my own food to the track most of the time for pre-race eating, and save the fries for after the race is over.
Exercising as mentioned above and visualization achieve mental fitness. Visualization is the act of running the race through in your head. You can make all the mistakes you want and make as many laps as you like with no cost at all. When you are actually in a race and make a mistake, take a few seconds directly after the race to remember exactly what happened. When you’re at home ready for bed, driving home from work or sitting in the living room, run the event through in your head. Make the mistake a million times. When the situation occurs again out on the track, you won’t even need to think about it, you will react with instinct. You need to make as many instinctive moves as possible; there is no time to think out on the track. This is why experience is so valuable. Visualize the race, visualize the mistakes, visualize the perfect lap, visualize the pass and visualize the win. In our micro sprint and mini sprint racing, this is especially important because everything happens so fast. There is not too many forma of racing that have 12 second laps, or sometimes 9 second laps.
We create our world with our thoughts, positive thoughts bring positive results.
Great race car drivers all have extreme confidence, a little cockiness, and are a little selfish. You need the confidence to be the aggressor out on the track. Tell yourself that you’re the best driver out there and there. Confidence, even if it is false confidence, is necessary to win a race. You can’t win a race if you don’t think you can.
Control Your Emotions
Don’t get too disappointed if you don’t win or even do well. There are factors beyond our control that come into play each race. If you do all the preparation you can, both for your body and your micro/mini sprint, then you have nothing to be upset about. When you make a mistake, learn from it and never let it happen again, I have not yet driven the perfect race, there is always something I could have done better. Find the things you need to be better at and focus on correcting them.
If someone else made a mistake that influenced your results, that’s part of the game and you must accept it, it happens to everybody. Even if an accident was someone else’s fault, there may have been something you could have done to prevent it. Replay it in your mind a thousand times and don’t let it happen again. Replaying the event in your mind over the next week will enable you to react with instinct next time, there is no time to think under green. Don’t go yelling at another person, they are human just like you, showing your temper will not make anyone else drive any different. It only builds resentment and ill feelings on the track, it can only hurt you, never help you.
Lastly, don’t ever give up! That’s what makes racing so addicting is the fact that the more you learn and the more experience you get, the better you will finish. Persistence and determination pay off. Live...Race...Win.