Monday, September 01, 2014
Athletes in all sorts of sports believe in using mantras. But are mantras any help in sailing?
What is a mantra? An inspirational phrase that helps with your performance. Something to help keep the mind focused on what is important while you are competing.
Many runners use mantras. There is an excellent Runners' World article about it - The Magic of Mantras. It reminds us that a good mantra should be "short, positive, instructive, and full of action words."
But mantras are very personal. Different strokes for different folks. And even in a sport as apparently simple as running, a runner may use different mantras in different stages of the race and for different purposes.
Some examples of mantras from that article I linked…
To remind you to start out easy in a long race - "Pass no one."
To help you stay focused and forget how long a marathon really is - "One mile at a time." I could never have completed my marathons or half marathons without using this one.
To help you focus on good running form - "Lighter, softer, faster, relaxer." Hey, they don't even have to be real words as long as they work for you.
Some sailors use mantras too. Christine Neville wrote about it in one of her posts about racing at CORK a couple of weeks ago. She felt she had been thinking too much about getting away from other boats to find clear air, so on this day she used mantras like "keep it simple" and "go as fast and direct as you can."
I really need a mantra to help me when I'm sailing a long windy beat to take my mind off my aching quad muscles and keep me focused on hiking hard and keeping good hiking form and sailing fast. I wonder what would work?
"It's meant to hurt." Maybe not. Too negative. A mantra should take your mind off the pain and adversity and keep you in a positive frame of mind.
"Tougher than the rest." Not true - but it would probably work.
"Grind them down. One at a time." Ha! I like this one. Just focus on sailing faster than the boat next to me until I have him in my bad air and he is forced to tack away. Children can be so cruel at my age.
But sailing is such a complex sport. We need different mantras for different wind conditions and different points of sail and different strategic and tactical situations and to avoid different mental traps.
"Keep your head out of the boat." is a very useful mantra of course.
And something like "Keep calm. Forget it. Carry on." is a good one for dealing with the aftermath of all the things that can go bad on the race course including capsizes, collisions with buoys, collisions with other boats, collisions with bridges, falling out of the boat, being pulled out of the boat by another sailor's sheet around your neck, chopping your finger off etc. etc.
What about you?
Do you have some favorite sailing mantras?