Trust is one of the most important “muscles” you need to develop during this prep period. All of your efforts related to conditioning, on-snow training, nutrition, equipment testing and preparation, and, of course, mental training is devoted to establishing a deep level of trust that you can ski your fastest and achieve your goals next winter. Your goal is to establish and make deposits in your “trust fund” until you are so “rich” that you can go on a “spending spree” on the day of a race.
So, what exactly is trust? I see it in several ways. Trust starts with a firm belief in your abilities and concludes with the belief on race day that your mind and body will do what it knows how to do, that is, ski fast. It also involves a basic perception that, if you give your best effort, good things will happen (usually in the form of a good performance and a satisfying result). Finally, trust enables you to view a race with confidence, commitment, and courage, and without fear, doubt, or worry.
Trust is so important because, without it, you simply can’t ski your fastest. You won’t ski aggressively or take reasonable risks on course. You will ski cautiously and slow. With little or no trust, you will try to take control of your skiing by thinking your way down the hill — a recipe for ski racing failure, to be sure. What trust provides you on race day is the ability to turn off your conscious mind and let your unconscious mind and your body take over, knowing that they will perform the way you trained them to.
A big problem with trust is that it takes a long time to develop and it can be lost in a second, often in reaction to a bad training session or race day. What can then result is a downward spiral in which disappointing skiing in training or a race leads to a loss of trust which hurts motivation and confidence which, in turn, hurts your skiing even more which reduces trust even more and so on. And when trust is lost completely at the end of this vicious cycle, it is a very long road back to regaining it.
Trust comes from several parts of your ski racing life. It begins with your coach. If you don’t trust your coach to train you in a way that will enable you to achieve your goals, you won’t ever fully trust yourself. Your training program is also a key contributor to your sense of trust. You must truly believe that every aspects of your program will get you where you want to go including conditioning, on-snow training, nutrition, and mental training. Of course, you must also trust your equipment, believing that the skis and boots that you have chosen are the best for your skiing, that you have the best set-up, and that they are tuned ideally for you. It also helps to be surrounded by people who believe in you; trust rubs off especially when you may lose trust in yourself after a bad day of training or racing. The final piece of the trust puzzle is your preparations on race day leading up to your race run. If you believe that you are as prepared as you can be when you put your poles over the wand, you are going to have a high degree of trust that you can ski fast and achieve your race-day goals.
A key question to ask is: How do you build trust that will be resilient and unaffected by the normal ups and downs of training and races? It starts with, as noted above, having a coach and training program you have faith in. Next, be sure that you give your fullest effort and are totally prepared in everything that impacts your ski racing. Then, allow your trust to build incrementally. Every effort, improvement, and success in every aspect of your ski racing should be “money in the bank” in which your trust fund steadily grows. You can begin to make deposits in your trust fund in situations without major consequences (e.g., conditioning, free skiing) and then progressively add to your trust fund in increasingly more demanding and important situations (e.g., gate training, timed runs, races). Lastly, because trust will take time to become ingrained, it’s essential that you make a conscious commitment to trust during your training and race preparations so trust slowly becomes your default state when you train and race.
Finally, trusting yourself is risky because it doesn’t always turn out the way you want (this goes for ski racing as well as other aspects of life including new jobs and relationships). The only way to trust is to, well, trust. So, ultimately, to build your trust fund, you must take a leap of faith. What’s the leap of faith I’m asking you to take? That if you let go of conscious control and allow yourself to trust that you’ve done what’s necessary to ski your fastest and achieve your goals (when there are no guarantees that the trust will be rewarded), good things will happen. And the great thing is that the more you trust (while recognizing that good things don’t always happen), the easier it is to trust. So, instead of getting sucked into that vicious cycle of lost trust, you get lifted into an upward cycle of growing trust and faster ski racing.
Want to build your “trust fund” through a structured mental training program? Take a look at my online mental training courses.