From what I can tell, judging from myself and others around me, is that there seems to be two points during the year when a ski racer thinks about the upcoming race season. The first time is at the end of the previous season (April), and the second time is when training intensifies (September-November). As many of you can probably attest to, the colder air and smell of snow brings with it thoughts of racing and of course what we plan on achieving this upcoming winter. We all dream of podiums, stretch finishes and medals but ask yourself how you plan on getting there, and you may find that “I’ll just ski fast...” won’t be a satisfactory answer. It takes years of hard work for athletes to achieve their ultimate dream, so if winning Olympic gold is all you’ve thought of as “successful”, you may run into a lot of disappointment on the road there.
Big dreams and goals are important, but so are the smaller ones. Achieving minor goals along the way to your “Olympics” is what will aid you by boosting your confidence and generally filling your ski experience with accomplishment; not failure.
So, how do I get started? Well first of all, the most important piece of advice I can give is write your goals down. This may seem trivial or a waste of time but having your goals be concrete; real, is a great help especially when you need reminding of them throughout the ski season.
What do I write down? Start by writing, in point form, your goals for this year. These don’t just have to be about race results. Have a technical goal (ex. Mastering my ankle bend in one-skate), a mental goal (ex. I will be confident in myself when I line up at the start), a social goal (ex. I will find a training partner from a different team), etc. It is important that all of your goals be challenging so that you have to work hard to achieve them, but also realistic. You may be setting yourself up for disappointment if you have never raced a 50km before and your goal is to medal. Instead, set a goal like coming in the top half of the race, or trying to one-skate all the hills.
It is also helpful to come up with goals for each individual race. Again, write them down! Something I do that I actually learned from reading an interview with the great Beckie Scott, is to keep a race journal. Before each race write down what your goals are.
Beckie Scott is a big believer in keeping a race journal
How do you plan on achieving these physically, mentally, tactically? Doing this not only makes your goals solid, real things, but it also makes you take the time to reflect about your race; something that is important before competition. A way of coming up with goals for a specific race is to review what you did well and what you need to improve on from your last race. To be able to do this examination you have to, guess what, write down what you did well and what you could improve upon the previous race in your race journal. No matter if you had the worst or the best race of your life, there should always be items in both categories.
Okay, so you’ve written your goals down for the season, before every race and you’ve reviewed your goals after every race, so what about those ultimate goals you’ve been dreaming of? They are important too! Keep them in mind so you have motivation to keep working on your smaller goals. Focusing on and achieving minor goals throughout your ski season will make the road to achieving the big goal an improvement not a bunch of failures-up-until-that-point. Plus, in the end, isn’t skiing about fun? Once you are on top of that world cup podium, you’ll realize that the moment only lasts so long. I imagine that it is a lot better to look back at the years that gotten you there as a great experience and not a waste of time. Looking back and realizing what you have accomplished along the way is definitely worth taking the time to write down a few goals.