Suffer and Win
by Tim Laskis, PhD
Suffering goes hand in hand while racing motocross or supercross. You have to endure a variety of elements such as extreme heat or cold. You have to battle terribly wet or dusty conditions. And, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Dealing with muscle cramps, old injuries, cuts, scrapes, arm pump and even serious bruising is par for the course for many racers trying to get to the finish line.
However, if you race and want to win, you must learn to suffer. There is no way around it. There may be days where everything goes right. You feel good, not exhausted and easily cruise to victory. However, those days are few and far between. Prepare yourself because suffering is on its way.
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For some, suffering is no big deal. They have a high pain threshold and embrace those difficult days. For others, they have a low pain threshold and are ready to pull off at the first sign of pain/suffering. However, most riders lie somewhere in the middle.
Here are three tips to help you better manage suffering so that you can make it to the finish line.
1. Focus on Your Objective:
When riders suffer they usually get distracted. When it is 100 degrees outside, they may keep thinking over and over, “I feel like I am going to die in this heat.” Or, “It is way too hot to race today.” As a result, the suffering intensifies and they begin making mental errors. Over jumping, missing their marks or crashing follows next. Or, when they have nagging injuries, they may focus only on those pain points. When that happens, the pain and suffering intensifies and more mental errors occur.
|Never allow yourself to use negative language about your skills, the conditions outside, your injuries or the track. When the suffering intensifies you will need positive affirmations to get you through.|
What you should do is focus on your objective of the day and on the obstacle directly in front of you. Focus on getting to the finish line. Focus on making the pass. Do not let yourself even for a second begin thinking about suffering. Start a conversation with yourself. You need to turn on that coach in your head. Start telling yourself to charge the turn, scrub, take the inside line, etc. This way you never have time to think about suffering. It is mind over matter and this is key to making it through those difficult races.
2. Use Positive Affirmations:
Using positive affirmations may sound silly. However, it really does work. You can choose to be your own worst critic or your biggest fan. Talking to yourself is not crazy. It has actually been shown to significantly improve focus and concentration. For example, during a race you may say something like, “I got this” or “Nothing can stop me” and “today is my day.” Doing this will increase your confidence and give you that extra boost to make it to the finish. When your body is screaming to quit, positive affirmations will push you through the pain and suffering.
Never allow yourself to use negative language about your skills, the conditions outside, your injuries or the track. Never tell yourself that you are terrible and that you never ride well in muddy conditions. When the suffering intensifies you will need positive affirmations to get you through. Otherwise, it will be easy to lose hope, lose focus and succumb to intense conditions or pain. At that point, you might as well pack it up and go home because good results will elude you.
3. Control Your Breathing:
Managing your breathing is one of the best ways to change your physiology quickly. What I mean is that you can make your body start to calm itself in a short period of time. Your breathing controls the oxygen levels in your brain, body and blood. When you have short rapid breaths, which is what happens during suffering, your brain is sending alarms signals to the rest of your body. However, when you begin to take slow deep belly breaths, your brain will send signals to your body and muscles to take it easy and relax. Being in a relaxed state is exactly what you want in high pressure moments. It allows you to think more clearly, have quicker reflexes and utilize muscle memory much more easily, which is exactly what all racers need.
If you don’t use these tips, you put yourself at risk for making mental mistakes, crashing and not finishing the race. You may focus on pulling off the track and quitting when the suffering starts. You may start to tell yourself that you can’t do it anymore. And, you probably will either begin holding your breath or breathing very short shallow breaths. As a result, your day is done.
So, now you have three solid tools to help you the next time suffering kicks in. Many times our competition is easy to beat, however, we have to stop defeating ourselves so that we can make it to the checkers at the front of the pack.
About the Author: Tim Laskis holds a masters and doctoral degree in clinical psychology from The California School of Professional Psychology. He also graduated with honors from Rutgers University with a bachelors in psychology. In addition to his work as a clinical psychologist, podcast host, professor and author, he works as a Motocross Mental Performance Coach at ClubMX. Since 2014 he has worked with amateur and top pro riders on factory teams in the 250 and 450 classes. He offers individual and group mental performance coaching sessions. Have a question? Email Tim.
Tim developed a NEW online Motocross Mental Performance Coach Certificate Course. This is designed for riding coaches, fitness trainers and parents of riders who want to develop a new arsenal of skills to help their riders reach their goals. Take his free Intro course today! Click here.
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