Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Performance anxiety...

Our bodies physiologically respond to stress and anxiety.  I know that you cyclists out there know what I mean - look at the line for the port-o-pot at any race.  Based on my own mom at horse shows when I used to ride, I think most moms do too. 

I was up skiing at Elk yesterday with some other staff trainers from Liberty, and we got to talking about how to train for performance mode.  At least for me, performance mode is different physiologically in skiing than it is in bike racing - my body responds differently.  I have to wonder if this is because I train so differently for my two passions.

Last year at Dev Team Tryouts (skiing), I was in a zone where I couldn't think, could barely form a sentence, and was singing random songs loudly enough that people thought I was tuned into my ipod (I wasn't).  By contrast, at most bike races I'm either visually and mentally focused at the start line (i.e. ignoring you no matter who you are) or I really really have to pee.  Sometimes I'll chat with friends at cross races to make the interminable time between call-ups and the whistle go faster.

In thinking about it, I train for performance often when I'm riding.  I race most weekends.  I train time trials on the road a few times a month.  I ride with mountain biking friends that are faster than me and try to keep up (never mind that usually I am trying this after they've already ridden for a couple of hours).

In skiing (especially at a small, mid-atlantic "mountain"), I train for precision.  A lot.  I do drills, focus on movements on every turn, follow others and mimic their movements - feeling how those movements affect my skis.  In other words, I look pretty most of the time. In skiing unlike in bike racing, I don't often experience exam situations - where the outcome is measured by someone other than me.

So then how can we as ski instructors train for performance? Well, obviously we need to put ourselves in the position to perform more often.  Clinic less, ski more?  Ski under the lifts when I know people are watching?  Race through the bumps, testing balance and agility?  Get the video camera trained on me more often, knowing that people I respect will dissect the movements?  Let it all hang out when the conditions are dicey?

I'm pretty sure this is not the last time I'll think or write about this.  Perhaps this is really just a preview of what I'll eventually write for the DivaSkiTips blog.  Who knows.  If the microscope was working and the database server wasn't in use, I wouldn't be writing at the moment anyway.


  1. Hi Becky,
    It was great meeting you this weekend. I definitely related to the exam situation, thanks for helping me get out of my head and into the Giirrrrl feeling. Lisa M-C

  2. Lisa - Great to ski with you and keep up the good work out there! As you continue learning about ski teaching, check out the DivaSkiTips blog ( ) and some of the PSIA educational materials. -Becky