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Monday, 22 June 2009

Being Prepared

Yesterday I had a horrible run in the local OY event. I navigated well, I ran well but my mind was elsewhere for the first 45 minutes of the course and as a result I ended up having a very average run. Afterwards I was a but despondent but then I saw this article on

One thing that stuck with me from the article was a quote from Thierry Gueorgiou:

"No matter how hard you work, no matter how great your talent is, your mind is the ultimate weapon" – says Gueorgiou, and adds wisely: “Most of the runners use it against themselves!”

This tied into what I was talking about with my last post "learning from the Ghost of the Past" and I so I looked into how you could use your mind in a race so you don't wash out?

First of all I think the 6 P's explain it all: Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. This could also be 7 depending on what school you went to... Most sports have two key componets consiting of a Mental aspect and a Physical aspect. I like to think that orienteering has 3 key componets, a Mental, Physical and a Navigational aspect. The Navigational and Mental side are very closely related but are very different at the same time.

The Mental aspect is the glue that sticks it all together, keeping your race together. Training for Physical stuff is pretty straight forward, Navigation is slightly more difficult but still can be done fairly easily. Mental preparation for a race is often overlooked as some times it comes naturally to some people and sometimes not. To neglect it completely seems a little silly when you consider how much time you train physically and navigationally. As I mentioned previously everyone who is at JWOC can navigate well, they are (mostly!) well prepared physically, but being mentally prepared is generally what sets the ones who do well from those who just completely wash out. So even if the mental preparation doesn't come naturally you can train you mind specifically so like every other aspect of orienteering when you need it it will be there.

For a start you have to be thinking Orienteering. You need to know what you can control and how to control it as well as knowing how to deal with the things that cant be controlled. Confidence is a choice, you choose to prepare, you choose to be confident. It might sound all airy fairy but when you choose to think like a champion you eventually begin to believe this. Positive thinking reinforces positive thinking and unfortunately the opposite is very true also. Above all else you have to ask yourself what are you here for? Why are you doing this? For fun. Nothing more nothing less, because you enjoy it.

Race preparation for most sports it generally easy as the field is well defined, so to speak. Like 100m sprint its easy to visualise, every time you line up go through your process, head down in the start blocks, control your breathing, bang gun goes off, you explode forward, raise upwards, lift your head, face muscles all relaxed, continue to accelerate, keeping in your lane, lean forward at the finish line and race over. Not so simple for Orienteering, the field is less defined (obviously!) and there is a lot more variables. However you can still use these techniques for Orienteering, your planning just needs to account for the variables.

I found in my searching on the internet, a brilliant presentation written up by the Canadian Orienteering Federation which looks at formulating a Race Focus Plan - a written plan of action consisting of:

  • Warm up
  • Start
  • First 2 controls
  • middle of the course
  • Last 2 controls
  • Finish
  • Warm down
  • Refocus Plan
You can find the full presentation here:

You may or may not have noticed that in the analysis I did of my race at JWOC that it was broken up into nice neat sections. Being an engineer I have learned to think analytically so this systematic way of preparation works well for me. A lot of people do this sort of thing without realising, so if you dont think its for you then stick to what your used to and what suits watching "Two and a Half Men" the night before a big race....worked pretty well for Brent!

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