The race season is finally over for most racers (for others, a few more weeks to go). After a long and demanding winter, you’re probably tired of skiing (regardless of whether the season was a triumph or a disappointment). It’s time to hang up your skis, pack away your gear, kick back, relax, and forget about ski racing for a few months, right? WRONG!!!
Being the best ski racer you can be is not a part-time activity. It requires a year-round commitment and consistent effort in your physical, technical, tactical, and, yes, mental training. If you’re a ski racer serious about achieving your competitive goals, the end of the race season simply means it’s time to start your preparations for next season. After a short period of rest and relaxation, say, a week or two, you need to begin your planning and your training that will get you ready to continue your progress toward your goals next winter.
The first thing you want to do is to look back on your race season and evaluate how you did. See below a post-season assessment you can take (and your coaches can take for you):
- Overall quality of season (1-10 scale; 1-awful, 10-exceptional):
- Physical progress (1-10 scale; 1-none, 10-significant):
- Technical progress (1-10 scale; 1-none, 10-significant):
- Tactical progress (1-10 scale; 1-none, 10-significant):
- Mental progress (1-10 scale; 1-none, 10-significant):
- Overall skiing performance progress (1-10 scale; 1-none, 10-significant):
- Results progress (1-10 scale; 1-none, 10-significant):
- Goals achieved this season (1-10 scale; 1-none, 10-all):
- Goals for next season: List some outcome and process goals you want to accomplish next season that will keep you on the road toward your long-term dream goals.
- What strengths do you bring forward from this past season that will propel into next season?
- What weaknesses or areas of improvement have you identified that you need to work on?
- What has worked for you that you want to keep doing?
- What hasn’t worked that you want to discard?
- What can you add to your training (physical, technical/tactical/mental) that has been missing?
With this assessment completed, you can, in collaboration with your coaches, decide what in your training worked and what did not. You can then use this information to create a prep-period training program to build on your strengths and alleviate your weaknesses, so you will ski that much faster next season.
Law of Insanity
You’re probably aware of Albert Einstein’s now-famous Law of Insanity: “…Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” If you are violating his law in your ski racing, it’s time to stop and do something different. Whether physically, technically, tactically, or mentally, if what you’ve been doing is working, you should change it. Take a look at your past season and all the things you did in the various aspects of your training, racing, and life, and determine what worked and what didn’t. In the latter case, stop doing anything that isn’t helping you achieve your goals.
Law of Stupidity
You are probably not aware of the far-less-famous law of stupidity, “If it’s working, change it; that’s just plain stupid,” because the guy who coined it isn’t famous (that would be me!). Despite the fact that this law hasn’t become a memorable one-liner (at least not yet), it has real relevance to your ski racing prep period. Just as you should adhere to the Law of Insanity and discard anything you’ve been doing that is clearly not working, you should also adhere to the law of stupidity and determine what has been unequivocally working and ensure that you continue to do them during your prep period and into your next winter of racing.
It’s About Preparation
An awareness and appreciation of these two laws should be in the forefront of your mind as you plan your prep period. How you ski next season depends on what you do this spring, summer, and fall. The physical conditioning gains you make and the technical, tactical, and mental skills you develop in the off-season will determine how much you improve and whether you reach your competitive goals next winter. There are three areas in which you must focus to maximize your preparation.
First, Commit to an intensive physical conditioning program. Ski racing has become a sport of “beef,” meaning you need muscle, strength, and power (plus, of course, agility and quickness). The only way to develop these areas is with an organized fitness program that may involve weight training, plyometrics, speed work, and mobility.
Second, most highly committed ski racers spend at least part of the summer and fall on-snow. Summer and fall skiing is essential for your technical and tactical development because you’re able to focus exclusively on improvements in your skiing fundamentals without the pressures of getting ready for races. It also enables you to test and adapt to new equipment. However, my motto related to equipment is: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” meaning if your equipment works for you, don’t mess with it. Testing distracts you from training and can cause you to question which equipment is best for you. And it also violates the Law of Stupidity.
Finally, and just as importantly, the off-season is the best time to engage in mental training. Just like physical conditioning and technical skills, mental aspects of ski racing (e.g., confidence, intensity, and focus) take time and effort to develop. An organized program of mental training can have huge benefits when you enter the new race season.
Getting going for next season starts with that first step of deciding how important ski racing is to you. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- How big are your ski racing goals for next season?
- Is your effort aligned with your goals?
- How badly do you want it?!?!
The key to achieving your goals next winter is to start now! Talk is cheap. It’s easy to say you want to be a great ski racer; it’s an entirely different thing to actually do the work necessary. If your goals are at all high, the only chance you will have is to commit to intensive off-season physical, on-snow, and mental training programs. Your goal when you get in the starting gate of your first race next season is to be able to say: “I’m as prepared as I can be to ski my fastest.” And, with all of that hard work in the off-season that you “deposited in the bank,” the chances are you will be successful and reach your goals.
Note #1: This will be my last article of the 2018-19 season. I will resume writing in early May when I will focus on what racers can do during the prep period to fully prepare themselves mentally for success next winter. Enjoy your brief downtime before you recommit to striving toward your ski racing goals.
Note #2: I began writing for Ski Racing during my graduate days when it was an actual hard-copy newspaper (I’m not admitting how long ago that was!).And I have been writing for SkiRacing.com for nine years now. I want to thank Ski Racing Media for again giving me the opportunity to share my ideas with the international ski racing community. It has been an honor, a privilege, and just great fun sharing my perspectives with each generation of new racers, coaches, and parents and reconnecting with those I knew “back in the day.”
Want to make mental training a part of your off-season training program? Take a look at my online mental training courses designed just for ski racers.