This is part three of a three part series on the psychology of arm pump by Patrick J. Cohn, Ph.D. an expert in mental training for motocross.
In part two, I discussed one of the major mental breakdowns that cause motocross racers to get arm pump on the track. One mental breakdown is trying too hard in a race. I stated that racers try too hard because of the pressure they feel to succeed – to do well for their parents, impress sponsors, and win friends. Practice results do not matter because you don’t have to win practice, but in races it counts and this cause racers to try too hard in races, eventually leading the physical feelings of arm pump.
In my new CD program, “Arm Pump Solved: Mental Strategies for Motocross Racers,” I teach you six mental strategies that eliminate arm pump. In today’s article, I would like to share with you some of these strategies.
Most of my students can grasp the mental game concepts I discuss with ease. The hard part is the ability to apply the mental strategies to your race in a systematic or meaningful way. The main idea is to have a mindset – at the start gate – that helps you to have tension-free and confident race, without feeling pressure or trying too hard to go fast.
Your attitude off the track before a moto sets the attitude you take onto the track. If you are tense or worried about an upcoming race – this will cause you to be tense on the start line, and you know what happens then! Thus, it’s very important to take the right mindset to the track – so you can have a mindset for success on the track. One of the ways I help you do this is to give you specific strategies to use during your pre-race preparation, specifically your mental preparation. And yes, you should not neglect your mental preparation before a race as it is just as important as your bike prep.
Mental Tool #1: Let Go of Self-Defeating Expectations
The attitudes that cause arm pump can start way before the race begins. Why? The pressure you put on yourself to win or impress sponsors begins before you gas it on the start line. The pressures I am talking about are expectations or demands you place on yourself about results, such as “I need my practice to pay off with a good race” or “I need to run a perfect moto to beat the other fast guys today.”
You need to become aware of the expectations you place on yourself by noticing the statements you have when thinking about the upcoming race. “I need, must have, or should win” are examples of demands you place on your performance before a race that can lead to trying too hard on the track. Pressure and expectation about your race results causes anxiety and tension, which leads to tension and trying too hard on the track, which I discussed in part 2 of this series.
One mental check you need to make is to identify when you place demands on your performance (called expectations in my book), which make you feel more pressure to succeed. Below are a few examples of expectations that cause unnecessary pressure:
- I need to win the race today to impress my sponsors
- I need to be perfect on every corner
- I must race my best to satisfy my parents
- Everyone expects me to win
The first step is to become aware or identify your own expectations that limit your performance and place undue pressure on yourself including the expectations you feel from others. The second step is to discard these expectations and replace with thoughts or a mindset that focuses only on your racing performance and what you need to do to race your best in the present moment.
Keep I mind that most of the pressure you feel comes from dwelling on results of the race before it even happens! This means you must focus on the process of racing, one section at a time, instead of worrying too much about results and your expectations. Good luck in your next race and please contact me if I can help you develop a mindset for racing success!
This article was based on Dr. Patrick Cohn’s new CD program titled, “Arm Pump Solved: Mental Skills for Motocross Racers.” For more information and to sign up for a free mental game e-course, visit www.racingpsychology.com.