By Leandro Lutz
After Birkebeinerrennet last weekend, we are moving towards the end of the Season IX of Visma Ski Classics but we still have two events ahead both on classic technique, the Reistadløpet/Norway - 50km on April 6 and the Ylläs-Levi/Finland - 70km on April 13.
Today we will talk about the importance of psychological training for long-distance skiing, not only for training but also for a long season of races. Let's imagine that you have trained all year long, you feel stronger than ever, you did a perfect tapering before the competition and your skis are impeccable. Your race day arrives and… not everything goes as planned!
In any sport the three fundamental pillars for a great performance are training, nutrition and rest. The longer the race and the more exhaustive the workouts, a fourth factor becomes decisive, the psychological preparation.
The life of Visma Ski Classics Pro Athletes is not easy, hundreds of hours of hard training all year long under the sun, in the rain, in warm and cold conditions. Hours and more hours of double pole training, long workouts and endless races. But do they all undergo some mental training?
I believe that every athlete has had difficult situations in his or her pro career, and there have been times when they have thought about giving up. At those moments, the psychological conditioning makes all the difference.
The winner is often not the strongest one in the field, but the one with the most prepared mind. Just as technical and physical conditions can be improved over time, psychological preparation can also be improved, whether in relation to self-confidence, managing adversity or controlling anxiety.
Here are some strategies to make your mind invincible:
- Define a goal: whether to help a teammate during the race, complete the race at a given time or position, win a sprint or climb competition or complete an 8-hour double pole workout.
- Study the race course or training: evaluate each section and draw a personal or team strategy, predicting the pace of the race/training in each stretch.
- Talk with your body: keep a positive dialog with yourself, it's the so-called self-talk or internal dialog
- Adopt a mantra: Create a motivational word or phrase for your race or training, "I can”, "I am strong and invincible”.
- Simulate training in the conditions and distances of the long-distance events: wake up at the time of the competition and feed as if it were a race. Ski uphills, downhills, flats and paces that you want to impose during the race.
- Meditate: meditating assists in performance and helps develop body awareness in fighting pain.
- Create a ritual of concentration: it is the repetition of a behavior pattern, be it to make a visualization before the race, to listen to a certain music, to meditate. This ritual helps reduce anxiety and increases concentration.
Mental preparation is fundamental to any sports success, without a strong mind the long-distance skier cannot cope with the adversities of long training and competition. A balanced body and a strong mind make the athlete overcome all barriers and achieve all goals.
Remember, you can!