Psychology and Racing

It has been a busy last 3 months, I re-evaluated my life. I quit my old job as a Network Administrator because it was very demanding on my work/life balance. I wanted more weekends available to race.  I decided to go in a completely different direction for my job. My day time job is now being an Associate Consultant II, it’s basically being a business analyst for data center migrations.
It was really interesting meeting my new co-workers and telling them I love racing and one day I want to become a professional racer. The first reaction I get is surprise then I get the question, “Isn’t that scary? Aren’t you afraid?” And for some reason I never equated speed= fear, I have never been afraid to race. For me racing is about getting the adrenaline rush, the speed, and having a blast!  It is almost alien to me that people find speed scary, I’m like…“What planet do you hail from?”

But that made me think about how psychology affects your racing. For some reason it reminded me of the times I have sat in the passenger seat of newbies. I saw how scared, anxious, and stressed they were. I felt how jerky their movements were while racing, the car yelling back at the driver, “You are pushing me in all the wrong ways!”  I compared it to sitting in the passenger seat of an experienced racer. They were confident, the car gripped in all the right places. The car was smooth it never yelled at the driver.

Reflecting back a couple of years I have been in both positions at different times. I noticed if my state of mind was not right I would have a bad racing day. For example, I remember getting to AX late because my stupid GPS got me lost. I was frustrated and on the verge of tears thinking the club wouldn't let me tech late after I have been driving for 2 hours to get there. But luckily they were really understanding and let me race that day. But the whole morning I couldn't shake of my frustration. The car understeered like crazy, squealing, and yelling at me to slow down but I wasn't listening. I wasn't listening because I let the frustration get to me; I let it consume me, not allowing me to focus.

I finally had to let all my emotions out by having a good cry at lunch. In the afternoon I felt so much better, I took a couple of big breaths to help calm me down. I noticed the car didn't have understeer, it stopped yelling at me. I improved my time by 2 secs the first run, then 1 sec the second run, and then another. I didn't beat anyone in my class that day. But I was pretty happy that I was able to bring down my time and get myself together.
It was a very important lesson for me that day. I learned the calmer I am the more focused I am, the more focused I am the more in the moment I am. When I am in the moment or “in the zone” I don’t worry about anything, not even my time. The minute I tell myself I have to beat my time I am not in the zone and usually hit a cone or something. If I just enjoy the race, I relax thus I am not tense so I can guide the car in and out of cones smoothly. Remember smooth is fast!
I know it seems crazy to not think about being the fastest, but trust me it really works. Just tell yourself you are the fastest and everything else should fall into place (positive affirmation). Based on my experience focusing should feel weightless, easy, calm, and peaceful. Our cars are great indicators of what our state of mind is. If you are fighting your car on every turn, back off and be kind to your car and yourself. If you feel that racing your car is easy then you are doing right.

The following is a list of things that have helped me keep me focused and sharp for racing:
  • Getting plenty of rest the night before
  •  Drinking lots of water the day before and the day of the race
  • Meditating in the morning before the race, have a mantra for the day. (Deepak Chopra has some really good mediations on YouTube)
  •  Doing some yoga hip openers, back, and shoulder stretches (i.e. pigeon, frog pose, etc.)
  •   Not drinking caffeine—this will just elevate your level of anxiety especially for those easily prone to stress and anxiety
  •  Not drinking alcohol the night before
  • Eating a good diet like Paleo or GAPS diet—eat good fats (i.e. coconut oil, avocado oil, don’t eat vegetable oil), reduce carbs, and take out sugar (sugar has been snuck into everything we eat today). The following links go into depth of how foods cause various psychological issues like stress: