Mike Day on Race Day Pressure

July 2, 2014 by  

Over the past two months, Mike Day and Donny Robinson have been sending out a weekly “pro-tip” email called #WinningWednesdays to promote their forthcoming virtual coaching service, Pedals 2 Medals. There have been some really great messages, giving insights into the heart and soul of Mike and Donny’s personal experiences in the sport, and offering-up some priceless gems they teach in their clinics.

BMX News got special permission to post last week’s message, written as an Olympic Day look at how race-day pressure plays in to every lap, not just the Olympic final. It’s a great “look inside” for those of us who have never been where Mike has been (only 14 people on Earth have).

We really enjoyed this one, and thought you would too.

The Same at Every Level

By Mike Day

Walking up the stairs of the start ramp for the Olympic final, so many crazy thoughts are buzzing around inside your head. You have managed to keep focus, and you are as ready as you’re ever going to be for the 36 seconds that comes next. Then, “hold up! commercial break.” WHAT?!

The commercial only lasts 30 seconds or so, but it feels like 30 mins. More time to think. You spent the last four years thinking about the lap you are about to do, and the 30-second pause for a cereal commercial is all that stands in the way. It’s unreal—maybe surreal.

When I started racing, I felt the same pressure at the local Friday night race, waiting for the race ahead of us to hit the second turn. Then I moved to the state races, then to nationals. The pressure I felt before the main in Beijing was the same for me that it had been at every level of competition. Yes, I had problems dealing with it at times, but I found a few things that really helped me get ready for the task at hand.

The first element, which worked best for me, was to make sure I did everything I could possibly do in training to get ready for the race. Any flicker of doubt in your preparation will be amplified when it’s time for the big lap. This can be a weakness, and cause unneeded pressure. Make sure you check all your boxes when you get ready for the big race and leave no stone unturned.

Second, practice as if you were at the race, and treat every practice session as if it were the main event you are getting ready for. When you start to feel comfortable putting pressure on yourself it will be easier to deal with the pressure when its go-time.

Many times I was at the track by myself, doing starts, and in my head I’d be going through the rundown of seven other guys that are in the gate with me and acting as if it were the semi to get into the main. Learn to practice at the same level you race.

The last, and most important thing you can do is to focus on what you can control, and tune out what you can’t. Think about things like your gate form, good technique over the jumps and 100 percent effort every lap. Things like who’s next to you in the gate, why you got lane 8 in the final, or so-and-so is going really fast are all things you can’t control, so forget about them. Don’t waste energy on things that you have no control over.

Pressure is good to keep your race day focus razor-sharp. But when you stop to think about it, what is “pressure,” really? It’s something that we, as athletes, create in our own heads. It’s not something you can grab or touch, but it can still get in your way. Learn how to deal with it before it becomes overwhelming.

Enjoy the journey of finding out what works for you when getting ready for that big main event–whether at the local track, the national you drove 16 hours to race, the Grands, or on the top of the hill in Rio or Tokyo.

—Mike Day

A new #winningwednesdays goes out every Wednesday. Today’s Topic: Parent-as-Coach: A Primer (by Donny Robinson).


Join the List on the Pedals 2 Medals Website