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This is Your Brain on Racing

Race Resources Monday, July 22, 2019

The mental component of Nordic ski racing is something most amateur racers overlook. Here’s a little sports psychology 101 and what ex-racer and owner of Boulder Nordic Sports Nathan Schultz wishes all newbies knew:

  1. Relax. We know. Easier said than done, but the why of it is: “the less you can stress about the unknown, the more you can focus your energy to positive things.”
  2. Focus on what you can control.“
  3. Don’t spiral out worrying about the weather, other racers, course changes, grooming. Focus on adapting, and taking action yourself.” Don’t get caught up in what other people are doing. “If you want to get anxious, start talking to people about what they waxed with. If you don’t have an opportunity to change the wax, don’t bother, you can’t.” So if you’re at the start line and the guy that usually beats you has a different wax, don’t go there in your brain.
  4. Think about what you WANT to happen, not what you don’t. “We have a great way of manifesting whatever we think about. If you think about crashing in a pile of people, you probably will.” Visualize positive scenarios instead; see yourself dodging the crowd, staying in control on a tough descent, or cresting a hill without breaking rhythm.
  5. Focus on the process, not the outcome. “Don’t think about who you’re beating or winning your age group. In order to get there, you need a race plan that’s process-oriented, like, I’m going to do my warm up, go out slowly, finish my second loop faster than the first, and so on.”
  6. It never hurts to have somebody to push you. “As long as you have a plan. If you pick a race buddy or a racer to catch, that’s good, but make a mental plan—“I’m going to beat her AND this is how I’m going to do it, or, this means I have to....”
  7. Get away from it all and into your head about what you’re doing. “It’s normal to look for outside support and advice when you’re not experienced; you want help, you want to know that you’re doing the right thing. But focusing on yourself, not creating nervous energy. Use your warm up time to be quiet and go deep.” Some people find social interaction to ease tension and anxiety, and that’s okay, as long as it works for you.
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