Mental Preparedness- A Key Part of Paddling

You’ve finally entered your first competition! You have been training incredibly hard and you are physically ready, but are you mentally ready? For me, the hardest thing when it comes to competing is making sure I’m mentally prepared. I have had to learn how to control my nerves, but still perform well and be consistent. I have spent years trying to find the perfect routine to get me ready for a competition, always trying this and that and I have finally found out what works for me.

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For all of my disciplines, I have to envision my run/ride while listening to music. Visualizing will help you be more consistent because it will send the same nerve impulses to your muscles as when you actually paddle. Therefore, it can help you acquire skills faster and be more confident applying them. It can also help your decision making. To envision a ride, course, or rapid, imagine yourself in your boat, holding your paddle, feeling the water underneath your boat. Then go through the sequence that you would like to achieve.

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Next I will go warm up. While I’m warming up, I practice the course on flat water (for slalom) and the movements for the tricks in my ride (for freestyle). This helps my brain remember the course/ride easier and makes my movements more natural so I can think less about the moves.
When I’m finished with my warm up, I’ll go watch my fellow competitors. in order to not get to nervous, I will listen to super happy, upbeat music (yes I become ridiculously happy right before I compete). While I’m watching people, I’ll usually envision myself a few more times, then I’ll get in the water.
Now this is the time where most people get really nervous (right before the competition starts). The best thing to do then is find something to do that makes you loosen up (for me it’s singing). It’s very important that you aren’t tense at the start of your run/ride because often times it will make you mess up quite a few moves and might even cost you the race.

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There are many ways you can mentally prepare, and I hope my routine might help you on your next competition or river run. If you focus on the positive, you can achieve positive results!

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