You have been preparing for your first race of this season ever since the end of last season. Winter training started with re-assessing your strengths and weakness and creating Training Goals that were designed to maintain your strengths and work on your weaknesses in a prioritised manner. As a result of this training programme, you are now a very different driver to the one who stepped out of their car after their last race, so expectations of performance this year should not be referenced by what you were able to do last year – there is a new best version of yourself, more skilful, more mentally resilient, fitter and stronger.
Very soon now, you will be moving into the race preparation phase of your training – there will be no more big wins to be had, yes skills can be further refined, but pretty much you are only going to be able to optimise this new best version of yourself. Your goal as always is to deliver all of this new skill when it really matters, and crucial to this is effective preparation – effective preparation is designed to eliminate doubt in the mind of the driver about their performance so that driving flows naturally and they execute their skills without thought or hesitation.
Preparation should start at least seven days out, preferably 10 (especially for the first race):
1. Decide how much time you can devote to your preparation – Professional drivers have almost unlimited time, but this does not apply to drivers who have careers and jobs – these drivers must decide how much time they can devote to their preparation and then prioritise the biggest areas of return for them.
2. Have a clear goal (appropriate and realistic for you) – Clear goals are the driving force behind everything we do. They set the height of the bar for your preparation, the standard you have to aim for and the person you need to be on race day.
3. Visualise yourself achieving your goal – Whatever your goal, in the week leading up to the race see a clear picture in your mind of you achieving it. You should also use this time to repeat your affirmations.
4. Prepare technically –This is the most important part of your preparation. In its most basic form this is knowing your driving plans for dry, wet and intermediate conditions; your start procedure, where to overtake and where to defend, etc.
5. Know what you control and know your Tasks –You must be 100% clear on the things you control and Tasks you need to perform both inside and outside the car. Also, you must be 100% clear on the areas that you don’t control and that need to be avoided at all costs.
6. Taper your training - The week before the competition, reduce the volume of your physical training. You can still train intensely, as complete rest can leave you feeling lethargic, but the overall volume of training should be much less than usual.
7. Focus on your nutrition and hydration - Alongside tapering, gradually increase carbohydrate intake to optimize energy levels, focus on foods that release energy slowly and are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants your body needs.
8. Have an excess of sleep – Race weekends are very stressful and taxing, both for the mind and body and many drivers have disrupted sleep in the build up, you can reduce the damaging effects of this by ‘storing’ an excess of sleep in the week before.
9. Prioritise your mindfulness training and mindful awareness – You are going to experience pressure and you are guaranteed to meet the ‘crossroads of choice’ numerous time over the weekend. Prioritising your mindfulness training and everyday mindful awareness will prevent non-productive thoughts from creating anxiety and in turn will allow you to enter the weekend with a clear mind so that you can be totally present and fully engaged in every Task you need to perform.
10. Be prepared to be ruthless with yourself – No matter how well you prepare for a race especially an important race, there will be times and situations where performance anxiety will raise its head. It is in these situations that you have to be utterly ruthless with yourself… effectively an ‘act of will’ is required every time to re-focus on your goals and affirmations.
11. Disassociate – The final day of your preparation, before you drive to the track should be completely disassociated from motor racing, preparation and training – you have done the work, there is no more to be done, its stored in your unconscious, ready to be retrieved when you need it – let go of control and allow the autopilot / the unconscious with its infinite processing power to predominate.
12. At the track commit let go of your goal and focus on your plan –Enter every session focused on the process and treat it on its merits (no thought of outcome only process). It’s also important that you are fully committed to your plan and strategies that you have prepared, questioning or changing your plan under pressure can only lead to reduced focus on your practiced Method, and this will lead to mistakes and frustration on the one hand and caution and indecision on the other.