Baseball pitchers take a deep breath just before the windup, basketball players do a couple of loose dribbles before attempting a free throw, and Olympic swimmers exhale and wiggle their arms and legs just before taking position on the staging blocks. Pay attention to these conditions just as you would your engine timing, weather conditions, or tire pressure.
The Racer’s Mind with Bruce Deveau The Cost of Trying Too Hard M ost racers have had the experience of try- ing too hard and have paid muscle group contracting and the other group relaxing. For example, when you lift your lower arm, the bicep contracts (you can feel it get firmer) while as possible. Pay attention to what these tension loads feel like. What does it do to your reaction time? The results should tell you something about a price. Trying too hard the triceps relax and extend (you can feel them the balance of muscle tension and relaxation. can be different things for loosen). When you drop your lower arm the opposite Once you have a sense of what muscle tension different drivers. To one happens. Therefore, for smooth, controlled muscle does to your reaction times, look over your reaction person, it means thinking action, there must be the capacity for both tension statistics for the past year. Are there circumstances too much, and to another, and relaxation. at the track or your personal life during which your it means talking yourself out of winning. Others will The runners who were trying to give 110 percent reactions got quicker or slower? Can you relate those get anxious from the pressure to win. were unknowingly slowing themselves down by trying conditions to effort and tension? Pay attention to Either way, trying too hard to win often has the too hard. The extra effort put tension into too many these conditions just as you would your engine opposite effect: You lose. It is important to help you muscle groups. The tension didn’t allow certain timing, weather conditions, or tire pressure. understand what’s going on when your efforts turn muscle groups to relax fully. Smooth, coordinated, Second, be aware that tension in the mind relates self-defeating and what to do about it. and consistent performance requires tension and directly to tension in the body. Any sense of doubt, Every driver wants to win, and every driver relaxation to be balanced. conflict, or fear in your mind is also tension in your wants to put in a good effort. But what determines Watch any professional athlete, and you will see body. Trying harder will fall short if you harbor how much effort is too much? How much is just him or her working this balance. Baseball pitchers negative beliefs about yourself such as self-doubt, right? Let’s start by seeing what we can learn from take a deep breath just before the windup, basketball conflict, or worry. other sports. players do a couple of loose dribbles before We all know that success in drag racing requires Professional athletic coaches have found that attempting a free throw, and Olympic swimmers lots of hard work. If you have been working hard but telling athletes to give it their all can defeat their exhale and wiggle their arms and legs just before not achieving your goals, there may be something else goal. For example, a track-and-field coach applied taking position on the staging blocks. Each of these you can do: You can stop trying and start believing. pressure to his runners, telling them to put in 110 athletes understands the role of relaxation in their The more you believe in yourself and your ability, the percent, and he was disappointed with the results. performance and takes the time to work out the less room there is for self-doubt. Remove self-doubt, At the next practice, as a test, he suggested the balance just prior to each competition. and you remove a major source of muscle tension. same group run at 95 percent, and to his surprise, Now, imagine yourself at the starting line. Take some time to study the role that muscle the runners ran faster at 95 percent than they did at Imagine the thousands of muscle cells primed for tension plays in your reaction time. Learn about 110 percent. Less effort, faster results. action. Whether you launch the car with your foot or yourself, just like you learn about aspects of your I’ve seen a version of this phenomenon in drag your hand, general tension in your body will affect engine and transmission. When you pull to the line racing. A driver pushes very hard for that first win your speed and consistency because all muscle with a balanced state of tension in your mind and and keeps getting defeated. On the verge of quitting groups are interconnected. For each driver, there is body, you will make gains in reaction speed, the sport, he stops worrying about winning and an optimum state of balanced tension and consistency, and control. ND losing and goes out and puts in the performance of relaxation. Your speed, precision, and consistency his life. How could this happen? depend on this balance. Bruce Deveau, MSW, is a psychotherapist, mental- One answer is muscle tension. Muscle tension imbalance will cause inconsistency skills coach, and author of The Racer’s Mind, a To understand how muscle tension and too much in your reaction time. What can you do about it? workbook and CD for driver concentration. For effort result in poor performance, we start with a bit First, take the concept of muscle tension balance, information, log on to www.theracersmind.com. Send about body mechanics. Each body movement involves and test it on yourself with your practice Tree. Try correspondence regarding this column to The Racer’s at least two muscle groups acting in a coordinated putting extra tension into your hand or foot as you Mind, P.O. Box 392, Amesbury, MA 01913 or call manner. Body movements are controlled by one practice. Then, try relaxing those muscles as much 978-388-4331; e-mail, email@example.com. N NHRA Racer Information Year PINS Quantity Competition Registration Form . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80 H Member-track Directory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111 Official Sponsors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89 1987
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