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Since Dr. Patrick Cohn works with the mental aspect of motor sports and has generously contributed to my website
- The Mental Game of Motocross, I felt compelled to write a little bit about the connection between physical
training and mental preparedness for your sport. From 35+ years of racing motocross myself, as well as being a
high school and college coach for over 20 years, I have had quite a bit of exposure to different types of training.
Even though my focus is specifically on strength and conditioning for motocross, I have found that mental
preparation is just as important as the physical training for any given sport.
Physically preparing yourself to compete at a high level in your sport will enable you to develop the confidence that
you need to race up to your potential and be successful. Using motocross as an example, by the time you roll up
to the starting line all of your physical training should be done and now it is time for your mental training to take
over. If you have trained during the week and practiced your riding skills thoroughly, then it becomes more of a
mental game on race day in which your confidence in your abilities takes over. As the old saying goes, by race
day “the hay is in the barn”.
Mental preparation should be a major part of your program because it contributes greatly to your success as an
athlete. Whether you are in the gym or at the race track, your concentration on the task at hand must be at a high
level with your focus only on being successful at that competition or training session. And, you must be able to
maintain this sharp focus for the duration of the event. This ability doesn’t just happen; you have to practice these
concentration skills during your training sessions in order to maintain total focus during competition.
This confidence and concentration will only come when you are physically prepared, and you have the knowledge
that you are in top physical condition because you have done the training that it is necessary to function at your
peak. Therefore, it is imperative that you create a physical training program and you stick with it on a consistent
basis. If you are not physically ready to push yourself on race day, then you cannot be confident in your ability to
race at top speed. Physical fitness and confidence go hand in hand. In essence, if you have trained hard and
know that you are in great shape, then you can put that in the back of your head and concentrate on the mental
aspect of the competition. The last thing that you should be concerned with on race day is your fitness. By that
time you should know that you are in better shape than your competition, and you are ready to race. Now it is
time to focus on things such as your starts, lines, track conditions, etc.
Visualization is also an important tool that should be utilized by all athletes, not only on race day, but throughout
the week as well. Visualization is especially important to motocross racers. Before you arrive at the starting line
you must visualize the track, your start, your lines, places to pass, and your victory to prepare yourself mentally to
race. You should begin by mentally rehearsing your starting procedure (that you practiced during the week) to
help you get a good start. Once you have completed the start, then you can “see” the lines, obstacles, etc. as you
circulate the track in your mind. This should take place during the week and also on race day. Once you have
actually ridden / raced on the track, you can create an even more detailed plan in your mind.
Then, between motos, visualize the changes in the track conditions and new lines. Once your race is over you
need to write down the positives and negatives of the day so you know what corrections to make in your training
the next week. You might also note what muscles are sore the next day to determine any physical weak points that
you need to work on. This is why every athlete should keep a training log. Every workout and competition needs
to be recorded so you can review them to see where you need improvement. I highly recommend that you start a
training journal immediately for the purpose of setting goals, getting organized, keeping records, and staying
Besides being physically fit, mental toughness has a profound effect on one’s athletic achievement and is a
prominent trait of any successful racer. Many times it is the difference between winning and losing. If you are
striving for athletic success, you need to develop mental toughness in your approach to strength and conditioning,
as well as your riding. Working out consistently, and with intensity, will develop toughness and discipline, and help
you push to higher levels at each workout. Don’t be satisfied with staying at the same level week after week,
whether it is in the gym or at the track. You need to make your workouts a competition in which you try to do better
each time you train. Are you satisfied with finishing 10th every weekend, or 5th, or even 1st in the beginner
class? Never be satisfied.
All athletes should also have the attitude that they need to improve every day. In order to achieve this, you need
to set short and long term goals for yourself. For example, short term goals might be faster lap times next week, or
more squats in your next workout. Long term goals may be to reach the Intermediate class in six months, or work
out three times a week for the next year. Be realistic with your goals. Set new goals after you have surpassed the
old ones. Write them down in your training log so you see them on a daily basis. These are examples of having a
positive attitude and displaying mental toughness in working toward a specific goal, despite any obstacles that you
might encounter. When you reach specific training goals, your ability to concentrate will improve along with your
physical fitness. Many great motocross racers have these traits. Currently, Ricky Carmichael is the best example
of this type of mental toughness and attitude. No matter the circumstances, he knows he is physically fit and has
the skill to win, but his determination and toughness sets him apart as the best in the world. I’m sure his strength
and conditioning program throughout the year plays a huge role in his ability to be more confident, determined,
and tougher than the competition.
This is the attitude that you need to develop in both your training and riding. Don’t have a big ego; just develop a
positive attitude and have confidence in your abilities. Training hard off of the bike and being physically fit will give
you the confidence that you can ride hard and to the best of your abilities for an entire moto. You also need to
make up your mind that you will never quit during a race (or during your workouts). Always ride as hard as you
possibly can no matter your position or the circumstances. If you aren’t physically fit enough to do this, then you
need to start training harder.
Physical training can be the difference between being on the podium or riding around in 20th place. It is also the
difference between novice and intermediate, or intermediate and expert. But, if you plan on being a professional
(or just moving up a class), then you need to prepare yourself both physically and mentally. In conjunction with
developing your physical fitness, you need to develop your ability to concentrate (focus), attitude, mental
toughness, and riding skills. To reach your athletic potential, you must create a program to cover all of these
factors as they relate to your sport. Be positive and work hard to develop yourself both physically and mentally in
order to become a total athlete. If you can fully develop these different aspects of yourself, you will be successful
both on and off the track.
|The Physical – Mental Connection in Motocross
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