Image Credit: Susan Theis

It’s early October. If you’re serious about your ski racing, this means you’re back to school and hip deep in an intense physical conditioning block. You’ve been at it all summer and there’s another month or two of busting your butt before you get to do what you love to do, namely, get back on snow. Right now, you’re probably tired of it, of being exhausted, in pain, and maybe even a little bored. I remember fall training at Burke Mountain Academy back in the day: cold early morning runs, bike rides in the rain, multiple sets of squats, and incredibly intense intervals up “Blueberry Hill” (so named for a girl who threw up at the top after a blueberry pancake breakfast!); definitely not fun!

The physical conditioning you do and the fitness gains you make in the fall are essential for your success this coming winter. Yet, it’s very likely that, at some point in this fall prep period, you’re going to reach a point in your physical training when you want to scream, “ENOUGH!”

But you can’t! Because if you do, you let yourself down and, in all likelihood, you aren’t going to have the kind of race season you want to have.

That point you just reached is what I call “the Grind.” The Grind occurs when your training is just no longer fun. It’s also the point that separates ski racers who achieve their goals from those who don’t. When most racers hit the Grind, they either ease up or give up because it’s just too darned hard. But truly motivated racers — Marcel, Mikaela, Sofia, and Henrik — realize that the Grind is also the point at which it really counts. The fact is that everything up to the Grind is pretty easy, so anyone can get through it. But, when these superstars reach the Grind, instead of easing up, they keep on going and, in fact, push harder. They know that maintaining their effort, intensity, and focus during the last reps, sets, or miles might make the difference between success and disappointment this winter.

I’ve heard other sport psychologists tell their athletes that they have to love the Grind because if they don’t love it, they won’t embrace it. But I’m a realist. Except for a rare few athletes, there’s just not much to love when you’re cold, tired, and in pain. But you can’t hate the Grind either because if you do you’re probably going to stop. Now, you might be thinking: “If loving it isn’t possible, but I’m can’t hate it either, what do I do?”

How you experience the Grind is on a continuum. I suggest that you neither love nor hate the Grind, just accept it as part of the deal in striving toward your ski racing goals. The Grind may not be very enjoyable, but what feels even worse is failing to achieve your goals because you didn’t work hard enough in your fall conditioning. And what really feels good is seeing your hard work pay off with success this coming winter. 

Plus, after a really intense workout, when you push through the Grind, you feel really good and it inspires you to keep on pushing through the Grind. Until you arrive at that day you’ve been waiting for, when you can click into your skis and start arcing them again. Then, you’ll know that pushing through the Grind was worth every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears

So, next time you’re doing dryland and it is REALLY NOT FUN, recognize the Grind, why you’re doing it, and push on through it. This winter, when you’ve had some great races, you can then thank yourself for hanging tough when it really mattered.

Want to make mental training a part of your off-season training program? Take a look at my online mental training courses.

Article Tags: Dispatches - Sports Ed, Top Story

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Jim Taylor
Contributor
- Jim Taylor, Ph.D., competed internationally while skiing for Burke Mountain Academy, Middlebury College, and the University of Colorado. Over the last 30 years, he has worked with the U.S. and Japanese Ski Teams, many World Cup and Olympic racers, and most of the leading junior race programs in the U.S. and Canada. He is the creator of the Prime Ski Racing series of online courses and the author of Train Your Mind for Athletic Success: Mental Preparation to Achieve Your Sports Goals. To learn more or to contact Jim, visit drjimtaylor.com
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