In my last post, I talked about the various elements of fitness and the role they play in windsurfing. Today I want to talk about something equally important as our physical capability that also plays its role on the enjoyment we get from windsurfing. When do we enjoy ourselves on the water? Enjoyment comes from two things: becoming more efficient in what we can already do and progressing in what we can’t do, i.e. learning new things. For some, this is learning the fast tack, the gybe, managing both turns on a lower volume board or learning how to use the harness. For others, it’s nailing the waterstart, mastering how to get planing on a lower volume board, getting round that carve gybe, doing a planing gybe, going round their first forward loop or setting up to catch their first wave. We’re all in different stages in our development.
No matter where you’re at with respect to your physical abilities, in order to progress in our sport – or any sport, really -, you need to allocate resources between two objectives: becoming more efficient in what you can do and making progress towards what you can’t do. Do the same thing every time and you’ll get consistent, but you will reach a plateau. Likewise, spend too much time trying that “new thing” thinking that you can nail it in a session or two, and you might be teaching your body bad habits which your mind memorises as well. Sometimes, too much of “the wrong thing” leads to wrong movement pattern rehearsals next time you are on the water training. This might lead to training yourself further away from mastering a move.
Both your preparation and time on the water needs to be organised strategically. So, how do you spend your time preparing for your session outside of the gym? Much of the time the emphasis is on the physical side: how to make your body faster, stronger and how to increase your endurance. But, no matter how fit you are, if you don’t train your mind as well, your progress will be slower.
However, if you’re overweight and not in your best shape, you’ll gain much more from establishing a regular fitness routine, so I recommend that you start working here. If, on the other hand, you’re already working towards being physically capable, keep reading.
The best way to reach your windsurfing goals faster and easier is mental training. Mental training is used not only by athletes, but other performers as well. On the water, we need to learn how to perform a manoeuvre, which means that we need to understand the skills it involves, the steps it involves, visualise how it looks when performing it, rehearse the steps after having broken the move down in its constituent parts, be able to integrate the feedback that we get from our trainer, our senses and the outcome, plus be confident, focused and excited enough to perform it a 100 or 1000 times before we actually nail it. Easy peasy, right?
Mental training is a very important piece of the puzzle and it sets you up for success when you’re trying to learn that new move.
Leaving out the psychological aspect of mental training (dealing with emotions such as doubt, stress about remembering the steps, fear of crashing or hurting yourself, confidence issues such as not believing you can do it, other distractions etc), setting yourself up for success on the water involves the following steps:
1. Choose your move. See the move in videos on the internet, browse through pictures of the move on google to see different phases of the move performed by different windsurfers, watch people live on the water perform the move.
2. Study it. Understand and analyse the move. Write it down in details in a full A4 page. Have someone else correct your understanding of the move.
3. Transform/visualise yourself doing the move. This includes getting specific pictures (e.g. “when I initiate the gybe, my back hand needs to be further back on the boom”), sensations (e.g. “when I am carving the board, I need to be feeling the rail dig into the water”), keywords of what to remind yourself throughout (e.g. ”back hand back”) as well as the overall experience (e.g. “how does it feel when I’m doing it right? where is the flow, when is the equipment in equilibrium during the move? when it isn’t, what do I need to change in order to make it easier for myself?”). After you have visualised the move, shorten your text (created in step 2) to 5 or 6 keywords or short phrases. Make it simple in the beginning. Find the 5 most important things you want to remember.
4. Simulate / do. Simulate the move on the beach, on the water in light or medium wind, going through your 5 keywords and the most important parameters you have identified. Do the move on the water. Carefully choose the conditions in which you initiate your attempts. For example, for the carve gybe, you need to be nicely powered up. Not overpowered, because you don’t have the technique to kill the power in the sail as you carve. Not underpowered, as you want to be able to plane.
5. If you don’t have a trainer, have someone video your attempts so you can see and compare them to successful attempts and see the difference and your mistakes. Correct your mistakes first in your “head” and then on the water. Have someone video you again.
Now, time to buckle up and get your homework done! Above all, don’t forget to have fun and to celebrate every session, even if you have not won. In windsurfing, most of the time you can’t win, especially when you’re learning something! Set realistic goals, establish thoughts and images that will help you get there and remember: the tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach!
In my next post, I’ll be pointing out my most important tips to hopefully help you out even more.
Have fun studying before your next session 😉