How to relax before a race and have more energy


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Everyone gets anxious and nervous before a race, even the fastest riders in the world, and if you don’t, it probably means you don’t give a rat’s a$$ about racing and you should look for something new to do on the weekends…

Stress is a funny thing, it can really drain all your energy, and before you know, you’re already tired just sitting on the starting line! If you can learn how to control your anxiety better and not let it get to you during the race weekend, you’ll have much more energy on and off the bike.
So, if everyone on the track is as nervous as I am, then what’s their secret you ask? How come they don’t seem nervous? Is there some kind of magic potion I can drink? Sorry to disappoint you, but there are no secrets or magic potions to make it go away. Did you really think it was gonna be this easy?

It all comes down to “How” you handle your stress, and what state of mind you put yourself in the week prior to the race. These 2 things are what’s gonna make all the difference in the end.

Mental preparation, which is often overlooked by lots of athletes, is a process that has to start early in the week prior to the race. In my own experience, you can’t expect to show up at a race ready to win if you just started thinking about it the day before. It just doesn’t work that way, you have to mentally prepare yourself early in the week if you want to be in the right state of mind for your upcoming race.

You’re probably wondering what are you supposed to do, how do you get mentally ready for a race, and how can you lower your stress level? They are many things you can do to achieve this goal, and like everything else in life, what works for me might not work for you, fortunately they are a few guidelines which I think would make any rider feel more prepared for an upcoming race.

Weak prior to the race

You need to put all the cards in your hands, and that’s only up to you! Take a few seconds and try to think of a few things you can do to boost your confidence level come race day. Anything? Let me help you out: Don’t flake out on your training, or let yourself be lazy…do what you’re supposed to do in order to be in great shape, and start focusing your energy on the upcoming race:

  1. Train hard, train smart, do your motos, then go play ride. Knowing that you put in the hard work, whether it be at the gym, running or riding your dirt bike, instead of goofing around will make you feel good about yourself and you’ll have a clear state of mind, instead of feeling guilty about not doing the right thing.
  2. Eat healthy, drink s lots of water, be strict with your diet. Don’t go to McDonald’s after training hard all day, after all, do you really want to feel like you’ve just wasted hard earned hours on your bike?
  3. No alcohol, no parties, no late nights. Go to bed early, you’re gonna need your sleep to let your body recover from all the hard training you’ve been doing.
  4. Visualize the track in your head everyday. If you’ve already race whichever track you’re gonna race on this upcoming weekend, then visualize it in your head, like you’re actually riding your dirt bike on it, what lines you’re taking, how fast you’re going…close your eyes and do a few laps, at least once a day. If you’ve never raced that track before, try to find videos and photos of it online, and study them.
  5. Man you LOVE the track you’re racing on this weekend. Don’t you? What do you mean you hate it? There’s no such thing as hating a track, forget you even know that word! You LOVE that track, you LOVE that track…seriously, telling yourself over and over that you hate the track you’re gonna race on and you never do good there is pretty much asking for failure. You might as well stay home, don’t even bother racing, just stay home.

Day before the race

It’s time for the big race! You’re been following my tips above and you’re ready to show them what you’re made off! Then all of a sudden it hits you: This is it, I’m racing tomorrow! Crap I’m nervous, I’m stressing myself for no reason…that’s when it’s time for you to forget about the race and concentrate on fun things you like to do. After all, you’ve been thinking about this race all week, haven’t you? Don’t you deserve a little break? What do you enjoy doing? Here are a few example of the things that used to help me keep my mind off the race for a bit, and relax/enjoy my time there:

  1. I enjoyed going to the mall and browsing video game stores. I would leave the hotel and go hang out at the mall for a bit, and often buy new games to play over the weekend. Playing video games, either on my PC or Game Boy, worked really for me because it relaxes me a lot and I also enjoy it, which completely takes my mind off the race and I wouldn’t feel stressed at all.
  2. Another thing I also really enjoy doing is watching a good movie, preferably in my room. Going to the movie theatre the night before a race made me feel guilty sometimes, like I should be resting in my room and not going out to the movies. But as long as I was watching a movie in my room, I was fine.
  3. I also enjoyed working on my website from my laptop, it kept my mind occupied. I would go for hours without even thinking about the race, to the point where I almost forgot I was at a race!

Those are just a few examples of what used to work for me, to keep my mind occupied on something other then the race, and at the same time lower my stress level a lot. Of course, the above examples might not work at all for you, so make a list of the few things you really enjoy doing and try to do these things during the day/night before the race. The goal here is to keep your mind busy with something other then the upcoming race and also make you happy.

Race day baby

It’s finally here…and it’s getting more real by the minute. You’re racing today! If you’re like me, you can’t really eat anything for breakfast. You’re stressed and you just want this day to be over with. Well I hate to break it to you but you’re not gonna win thinking like that, trust me, I know. I had to find a way to deal with my race day stress, because it was draining all my energy.

It’s a good thing to be with other people on your way to the track in the morning, you keep each other busy. Being by yourself isn’t great (some riders like to be alone in order to focus more during race day, so it’s really up to you) because you’ve got nothing better to do other then think about the race and stress yourself out like crazy! So if you can, drive to the track with friends, they’ll keep your mind busy. Get into a routine that works for you and keep doing the same thing every morning before a race.

I remember back in 2000, I had a race day morning routine which worked great for me. I was riding for Yamaha Of Troy and my teammates where Ernesto Fonseca, Casey Jonhson and Justin Buckelew. During the nationals series, we used to always drive to the track in the morning in my rental car, all 4 of us. Casey and I were listening to Pearl Jam one morning, from a mixed CD I had made, and we started singing along…it was pretty goofy, but fun. We did the same thing at almost every race and I remember getting to the track relaxed and ready to go. It’s like we had our own little routine and we were looking forward to it every race. I brought my mixed CD at all 12 outdoor races that year, it just had to come with me…

What you do during race day is really up to you. Some riders like to be left alone, focusing on the race all day, others like to wonder around, listen to music, watch tv…it really depends on how you cope best with pressure. For me, it was always about doing something else, staying active, talking to people and walking around. Staying hidden in the truck would make me more nervous and didn’t work very good in my case.

Try to follow the tips above seriously during the week prior to the race, and you’ll see a noticeable difference in your anxiety and confidence come race day. Of course they are many more things that can help you get ready for the big day, but they might not apply to everyone. Find what works best for you and stick to it. There’s one thing you have to keep in mind,  “are you having a good time? Are you enjoying what you’re doing?” Racing dirt bikes should always be something fun, something that puts a smile on your face. The day it becomes a chore is the day you should think about doing something else.

I’ll use myself as an example:

I love play-riding, whether it be on a actual track or in the hills. I would always find crazy jumps and spend hours on them. It made me happy, it put a smile on my face, this is what riding dirt bikes was all about for me. The more serious it got, the less play-riding I did. Even tho I was training hard, eating right, sleeping right…I felt something was missing. I wasn’t play-riding anymore, I was too focused on the fact that I had to train and do motos to get in better shape, and ripped the fun out of it. Before I knew it, it had been a few years since I last went play-riding in the hills. That’s when things started to go downhill, when I realized I wasn’t having fun riding anymore, I was just doing it because that’s what I do.

Conclusion

Yes training is very important, and you should spend most of your time on a bike doing just that. But you can’t loose sight of why you’re riding motorcycles in the first place; it is fun! And it makes you happy!
The moral of this little story is don’t forget to have fun, because if you’re having fun you’ll be more relaxed and a lot less stressed at the races. Lots of rider work very hard and train many hours per day, but somehow they can’t put it together during an actual race. I have seen so many riders ride real fast and smooth while practicing during the week, and then completely loose all their abilities during a race weekend, like they forgot how to go fast. What happens is that they probably psych themselves out and let their stress get the best of them. I guaranty you they’re not having fun, they keep telling themselves that they can’t choke up this time, they have to put it together, they have to do good. Putting this much pressure on yourself is going to make your life miserable! You have to relax, tell yourself you did everything you could during the week prior to the race (have you tho?) in order to be ready, and that all you can do now is enjoy this great weekend and do your best. That’s all you can ask of yourself, to do the best you can. There’s no reason to be stressed if you know you’re ready and you’re gonna give it your best! Everything else is out of your control so stop stressing about it will you?

 

To finish this article, I just wanna say good luck to you and try to apply all the tips above for your next race. I hope these few lines will be helpful to some of you who have trouble controlling their anxiety during race weekends, and help you do better in your racing career.
If you want to add your 2 cents, please use the comments system below, anyone can post comments.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more !

  • SyncE

    COOL! ACtually these tips work for other life situations as well (for a example – math test 🙂 ) and thats as something extra. 🙂

  • XC Runner

    For people who can’t tell the difference between mental preparation and stress this if for you. Mental preparation is visioning the race, coming up with a game plan, and getting focused. I have a race today so I am focused by listening to my certain music, going over my gameplan depending which race I run, and days prior I research my opponent. Stressing out is constantly thinking about the different and possibly bad outcomes which is no good. Stay focused and listen to motivational speeches

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  • It's a good question. Let's say you have already raced this track before, use your latest memory of it to visualize it the way it was the last time you rode on it. Even if the track changes a lot on race day, you will still feel like you know it better from visualizing yourself riding it the best you can.
    If it's a track you've never been too, try to find videos or photos of it and do your best to re-create it in your mind. You can then do some visualization work after your first practice for example.

  • It's a good question. Let's say you have already raced this track before, use your latest memory of it to visualize it the way it was the last time you rode on it. Even if the track changes a lot on race day, you will still feel like you know it better from visualizing yourself riding it the best you can.
    If it's a track you've never been too, try to find videos or photos of it and do your best to re-create it in your mind. You can then do some visualization work after your first practice for example.

  • Karl

    Mr. Roncada, this mental preparation when you visualize the track, do you visualize it in different conditions? I'm thinking what if I'm visualizing the best maintained and newly groomed track and on race day it turns out to be a real mudder with all kinds of nasty ruts and stuff. How can you tackle this problem?

  • I'm glad this helps you out and good luck for your next race. Just remember, everyone is different so you have to find something that works for you and stick with it. Ride hard 😉

  • adamcall

    Thanks for writing this its exactally what i needed to hear iv been doing very well in practice and keeping up with intermediates but i could never put it together in a race hopefully i can this week