How can Yoga, meditation and Enduro help your xc performance?
Your brain, like your legs, is a muscle that has to be trained and also recovered if you want it to be resilient under pressure. You can go into a race hoping all goes well if there’s no adversity, or you can do the preparation so that, regardless if things go to plan or not you have the resources and skillsets to adapt quickly and get the best out of yourself. Yoga, meditation or even a walk in the woods are a few tools I have found really help focus my mind and energy to increase performance.
The busier my mind, the more slowing down helps me prioritize, the more race nerves have me feeling stressed, the more clearing my mind can lead to focused excitement and confidence.
Yoga and meditation are one of the best things I can do to train distraction control and clear my mind so it’s ready to focus on what’s most important, rather than getting caught up in every stray thought or sensation. Doing yoga at home is probably the best thing to do if I want to keep a clean house, you see all those dust bunnies that are hiding under the couch, the things out of place that you want to fix. You think of all the things you really should be doing rather than taking some time out to purposefully slow down. You get distracted, just like you can get distracted in racing or training by conditions, competition, your tired legs, mistakes and spectators. Once you learn to let unwanted distractions drift by, thought becomes more focused on the task at hand, the body relaxes, and your brain and body get the recovery as well as the focus training they need and better performance can follow.
In training or leading into an event there are always lots of distractions fighting for mental space. Being skilled at letting them drift by you while staying engaged in the moment is a very useful skill. The more I feel I don’t have time for yoga or meditation, the more I feel better when I actually do it, even if for just 15 minutes a couple times a week.
Enduro. How is this in the same post as Yoga and meditation you ask?
If you’re not familiar with it, Enduro is a form of mtb racing that involves a lot of hours and climbing, but where only the descents are timed and actually count towards the race. It’s about getting the most out of every second of your dh run, being focused, controlling distractions, staying in the moment and riding as fast as possible!
After trying some enduros I have even more respect for what it takes for those DH and Enduro racers that can push their limits and consistently perform. It’s not that these people are always having flawless runs, nailing every turn, jump, root section or drop in. If you ask a race winner if they had a perfect run, guaranteed they can give you a list of what didn’t go right, but they are adapting more quickly to mistakes, noting them, but not getting hung up on them and continuing to make the most of what is still to come. They are focusing on what they can do in that moment and how they can do that to the best of their ability and not letting distractions slow them down.
So if the pace of Yoga or meditation isn’t your thing, Enduro or any timed technical training can teach you similar skills, to stay present and noting but not hanging onto those distracting thoughts that aren’t helping you race forward.
Ultimately, if you can do both, timed technical training and purposeful mind quieting you will get the mental recovery and training that will help you xc performance while having fun pushing yourself in different ways and environments.