Last week, I raced at the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled in Canada’s women’s 8+. It seems like it was ages ago, but I had an experience which is of relevance to this blog and is hopefully useful to all rowers. On one of the competition days, I was struck by how much I am a creature of habit. Faced with any racing scenario, I inevitably like to keep to a routine that I have tried and tested (as I have mentioned in a previous entry).
The reasons for this are obvious. It gives an athlete confidence in their readiness to compete by running through stretches, exercises and habits that they either believe or have proven to themselves to be beneficial to their upcoming performance.
On a race day at these past World Championships, I had a 90-minute routine prior to my race start time that included everything from my initial warm-up (and when I listen to my iPod) to my last pee break. It’s like a Swiss clockwork. Everything happens at a given time.
Oddly enough, on one of my race days, I modified my routine because I wanted to do some extra hamstring stretches before the race. This meant that I had to substitute other parts of my pre-race routine. As I was aware of this beforehand, I weighed up in my mind if this was a sensible thing to do. Should I change my routine? What are the risks of not doing the same stretches at X minutes before the race? Will it matter when I start racing?
The psychological barrier of changing my routine at the World Championships was far greater than I realized. However, by modifying my routine, I realized that I would benefit more from it than by carrying on doing my standard pre-race prep simply because that is what I have always done. I overcame my psychological inhibitions and did a slightly different routine. Once sitting in the start blocks, I was as ready as any other race!
Without a doubt, I will remain a creature of habit. However, I will be less rigid in my ways than I have been previously. This flexibility will certainly give me confidence as our eight prepares for the Olympics next year. An extra stretch, an earlier bathroom break or forgetting my favorite sunglasses will not throw me off my game!