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Virtual Trainer: It's In Your Head

Other than the obvious, like talent and good looks, have you ever thought about what truly separates the winners from the losers on the racetrack, or the successful from the mediocre in everyday life? Sure, a lot of success and failure has to do with things that you can’t necessarily control, like natural talent or how you’re physically put together, but the rest of it has to do with things you can control. Besides the obvious things that are controllable, like training, practicing, studying, and working hard, one other key ingredient often is overlooked: a positive attitude and a strong outlook on life. Remember, a good training program consists of four components: cardio conditioning, muscular endurance training, flexibility, and training of the mind (i.e., attitude). Most people who are serious about MX have the first three down pat. It’s the last one that seems to get overlooked, and it is quite possibly the most powerful of the group.

A Journey Starts With a Step

The beginning of any journey always starts with a first step. In MX, this first step starts with training your mind and attitude. All the natural talent and physical training in the world will only get you so far for so long. After that, only the mentally strong will truly succeed. A positive attitude and tough mental state are keys to a good training program. Bad news is everywhere, and it’s difficult not let all of the negative news affect your attitude. This tends to make you pessimistic about life in general and, in turn, your training program. A bad attitude leads to bad habits, which lead to bad results on and off the track. A very important part of any training program is first making the decision that you want to become a better rider by committing yourself to a training program. Then you must learn how to develop an attitude that will keep you committed to your goals.

Positive or Negative, Which Are You?

If you tend to be a negative person, you must first identify your poor habits and remove them from your life. Pay close attention to how you interpret events that surround you. Your attitude is formed by how you interpret different situations in life. By paying close attention to how you process the information around you, you will be able to identify whether you are a positive person or a negative one. When a difficult situation presents itself, do you look at the situation as a pessimist or an optimist? Do you see the opportunity as a chance to fail or to succeed? Your attitude is shaped by the way you perceive reality, and ultimately, your attitude is made up of your thoughts and feelings.

Since your thoughts ultimately control your actions, the thoughts that you fill your head with are very important. Usually in life, the quick, easy way will give you instant gratification that fades quickly, while hard work and dedication have no immediate gratification but will lead to lasting success in the future. If you think negatively toward training and give into instant gratification, you are letting your negative thoughts control your actions. Instant gratification is a sign of a weak mind. If you condition your mind to remain positive, your actions will lead you down the path toward success.

Train the Mind Like a Muscle

A positive attitude is not simply developed by waking up one day and saying, “Today I am going to be positive.” Although the brain is an organ, it can be trained like a muscle. Over time, you have to condition your mind to develop positive thoughts. Developing positive thoughts requires a great deal of energy and time and will require you to live the lifestyle of an athlete. Training, diet, riding, and all of the other ingredients necessary to become a successful rider (or person, for that matter) must be part of your daily life. You have to live the life of a champion to become a champion. I believe this applies to every aspect of life, not just on the track. If you condition your mind on a daily basis like you do the rest of your body, eventually the positive thought process will become natural. A strong, positive attitude will replace the weak, negative one. But in order for this to happen, you have to be willing to make the commitment and work every day on your attitude.

Positive Thoughts Breed Positive Actions

Developing a positive outlook toward your training program goes hand-in-hand with a positive attitude. If you dread doing your workouts and can’t wait for the hour and a half to be complete, then you need to reevaluate whether or not you really want to be successful at MX. By telling yourself each day that you don’t want to go to the gym and that you don’t enjoy training, you are filling your head with negative thoughts and are setting yourself up for failure. By thinking negatively toward training, you are conditioning your mind to accept negative thoughts. By telling yourself that you don’t want to train, you will most likely look for the easy way out during your workouts and become inconsistent and unproductive. This leads to failure. If, on the other hand, you are serious about your race results, you need to develop a positive attitude about training. Instead of dreading your workout, focus on how a good hard workout is going to lead to better race results. Instead of looking forward to the end of your workout, develop an attitude that your are invincible, and nothing is going to stop you from reaching your goals. Accept the fact that training is not necessarily fun and easy but difficult and grueling. By realizing this and remaining positive you are conditioning your mind to be mentally tough and able to cope with negative events. By getting through a tough workout and realizing that you didn’t give up, you are conditioning your mind to be mentally tough and soon a positive attitude will become natural.

Mental Toughness

Developing a tough mental state is part of a good attitude. By training hard and pushing yourself to your limit each workout, you are conditioning your mind to deal with pain and adversity. The next time you are working out and feel like you can’t go any further, condition your mind to accept the fact that you can continue on and work even harder. This mental toughness will carry over to the racetrack and keep you digging for more as the moto wears on. When your arms feel like noodles and your lungs are on fire, you will be more likely to keep charging as the rest of the pack gives in. Because of your positive attitude and tough mental state you will be able to endure more pain and adversity on the track than your competitors. Proper training, and a tough mental attitude will not necessary make you faster; but it will make you faster longer.

Today’s Champions

To me it’s easy in professional MX to determine who will be successful and who will be a flash in the pan. Guys like RC, Bubba, Chad Reed, Kevin Windham, Davi Millsaps, Jeremy McGrath, John Dowd, Mike Alessi, and Doug Henry, to name a few, all train differently, have their own thoughts and beliefs on how to succeed in MX, and all have had varying degrees of success and failure on and off the track. I only know of these guys from what I read and observe, but I’m willing to bet that these past, present, and future champions all have at least one thing in common: a great attitude and strong mindset.

You only have to look as far as RC this year in supercross to see a great example of what a positive attitude can get you. Bubba and Chad Reed are equally talented, if not more so, and yet somehow, week after week, RC comes out on top. Maybe not in each race, but that’s not the ultimate goal; the championship is. Each week, I listen to RC talk about what he can do to get better, not what he can’t do. He continually fills his head with positive thoughts and always strives to be better. The opposite is true of the guys that never live up to their potential and quickly disappear from the spotlight. Their common thread is usually a poor attitude and weak mind.

It’s All Up to You

One of the great things about motocross is that it is an individual sport. Although you may have a team of dedicated people behind you, once you throw your leg over the bike and hit the track, things are mostly up to you. If you don’t have the mental fortitude to push yourself past your limits each and every day, then ultimately, you only have yourself to blame if you fail to meet your goals. In a world that gets more and more competitive each day, a good attitude and tough mental state are absolutely imperative if you want to be successful in the game of life.

Good luck with your training, and as always, VT can be reached anytime at crytset@comcast.net. In addition, be sure to check out the Racer X archives section, your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. Archives before November 2005 can be found here.

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