Racing bikes can be one way to get into the competition mindset.

Driving Tip #16: Stay Mentally Sharp

It’s easy to get out of racing mode in the off season. Finding ways to keep your brain engaged will have you ready when your next race rolls around.

The rest of the world may argue about whether race car drivers are athletes, but if you’re reading this, the question is probably settled. You’re well aware of the physical aspects of driving a race car for lap, much less 15 laps or a couple of hours during your third stint in the wee hours of the morning.

As physical as racing is, though, it’s certainly a mental game as well. While techniques for keeping physically fit over the off-season are fairly well known and perhaps even obvious, exercises for keeping mentally sharp aren’t as readily apparent. There are methods to keep the brain in competition mode in the winter months until the next time you pull the belts tight.

“The simulator is a great way to practice and stay sharp,” says pro driver and coach Tom Long. “Beyond that, anything that has to do with reaction times – reaction time games, keeping your senses sharp, things like that.”

One of the things that may help is to find ways to occasionally get into competition mode. Simulators are one way, but there are others.

“There’s something to be said for being in the ‘zone’” says pro driver and coach Andrew Carbonell. “It’s very easy to spend enough time away from the track, to where physically you might still be in shape because you’re exercising and you’ve been doing your routine, but you haven’t dealt with competition. You haven’t dealt with the stress of a race weekend. You haven’t dealt with making all these decisions and trying to figure out the best solution. When you start to add all that into a race weekend and you haven’t felt that in a while, it may kind of all pile up on you and affect you mentally. You kind of fall out of that routine when you’re just worried about your physical fitness.

“So it’s very important to do whatever you can to stay in a competitive mindset,” he continues. “If you’re a cyclist, maybe do some cycle races in the off season. Anything to kind of keep that competition factor alive in your mind. Being physically fit is important, but being mentally fit is just as important. It’s very easy as we spend time away from the track to lose that edge, that fight, that drive you have inside you.”

It’s not all active, though. There are some more passive ways to get your head into your racing game.

“If you have the opportunity to view some of your racing footage from the previous year, think back about some of the things, keep your brain actively thinking about what was going on,” says Long. “If you have the opportunity to replay some stuff, you can jot some notes about what you want to work on. File those away in your head so when you’re sweating away in the gym, you can be focusing on those things and spend your time subconsciously analyzing so you’re more prepared for next season.”