By Dr. Jason Richardson – BMX World Champion
Just as we can be mentally triggered into a fight, flight or freeze response—otherwise known as FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real), we can learn to trigger ourselves into a state of calmness, happiness, contemplation and—in the case of the BMX racer—a state of readiness!
CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE TO CHANGE YOUR RESULTS
Seeing yourself as a true athlete, as opposed to a student, parent, or little kid, will immediately up the ante with your training, riding and progression.
Because the brain likes to be right! When you actually see yourself as the athlete – as THE rider/racer/jumper; this sends a signal (a trigger) to your brain to behave like one. The true riders take different risks than those just playing the part. True athletes prepare with more intention than the guy who “just wants to look the part.” Your brain automatically recognizes this shift in perception.
When you begin to identify as athlete or rider, your interpretation of the trail, track, and competition begins to follow suit. Just like a freestyle BMX rider looks at an outdoor staircase differently than a road cyclist, you too, will begin to see sets of triples where there were once consecutive rollers and other options to take that first jump!
BEING THAT GUY / GIRL!
Now that you are an athlete and you see things as a true rider sees them, you’ll encounter a whole new set of expectations as well as doubts and fears that accompany your new perspective. Dealing with this fear begins with not fighting it. Moreover, you must accept fear as part of being who you are and as part of the sport.
Take time to re-read the previous two sentences. Fear is part of you, and it’s part of BMX Racing.
When we have our eyes on our fear, we don’t have our eyes on the track. When we’re fighting our fear, we’re fighting ourselves. However, acknowledging that fear is present and accepting it as part of the course, just like a jump, the gate, or rhythm sections, can make it easier to navigate.
Before the next time you find yourself scared or doubtful, create the habit of working to accomplish three to five concrete, measurable things during each training and race. Greg Romero says some examples might include getting clean backside on a jump that is not too easy, yet not too hard, getting clean gate starts, being in the correct acceleration position to the 30 foot mark, or simply getting through you sprint workout with consistent times, but more importantly executing the correct sprinting acceleration position.
You’ll distract yourself from doubt and fear by focusing on the task of hitting your targets. Make sure those targets are within your grasp and just at the end of your range. You might hear a lot of “I know I can do it” self-talk when you do this. That is a good thing!
SEE YOURSELF IN THE PROCESS BEFORE YOU BEGIN THE PROCESS!
When you arrive at the trails or track, take time to ground yourself, for example, I do this while I’m putting on my knee pads and changing my shoes. Stand firmly on the ground, preferably shoes off. Breathe steadily and deeply in your belly while you envision yourself hitting your targets. The more detailed your visualization, the better. BMX Coach Greg Romero says this technique by Dr J prepares yourself to be in the moment, not focusing on yesterday, tomorrow, but today, right now!
Now you have a reset button: that same breath, but inhaling through your nose and forcing it out quickly through your mouth. This will trigger your brain to do what you envisioned earlier. This practice takes practice, but the more you do it the more automatic it becomes.
With enough practice, you’ll notice yourself creating a target map unintentionally. Do you think about putting on your pants, or do you just put them on? Do you think about brush strokes when brushing your teeth? What about tying shoelaces or (oddly enough) riding your bike? At some point you had to learn those things, and over time those actions became automated.
The key to realizing your athletic potential is applying consistent pressure over time. Believe you’re an athlete. Set clear targets. Practice visualizing and triggering them until they become automatic. Then set your aim for more targets.
See ya at the finish! – Dr.JRich
Jason Richardson, PsyD, MBA
Author | Speaker | Psychlist