Every driver talks about performing in ‘the Zone’. A state of mind where a driver’s performance is at the peak. Cornering seems effortless, braking points are sublime and the driver’s brain is free of all distracting thoughts. All that matters is what is happening now, the driver is acting without judgement, and he is getting the maximum performance out of his drive. Lap times are consistent, speed is high, and every about racing seems simple.
Being in ‘the Zone’ is an encouraging feeling. What it tells the driver is that deep down in their subconscious capabilities, they have a strong understanding of what they are doing, and how to perform at the maximum level.
However more often than not, and frustratingly, being in ‘the Zone’ seems to be a fleeting occurrence. It seems to be a struggle for the driver to get into the proper mode. His actions are rough, and his mind is overwhelmed with distracting thoughts. The driver knows that he’s not getting the maximum out of his performance, but finds himself helpless to tap into that portion of his mind that allows him to get the maximum on the day.
So how does one get into the Zone? It requires the body to be rested, to be relaxed, and supplied with plenty of energy in order to perform at the level needed. I’ll get into another article about proper nutritional requirements for driving, but for the moment just understand that proper rest and nutrition before racing are the starting blocks for a strong performance. I’ve also written another article about how to relax (both mentally and physically) before getting into a race, and so getting into the Zone builds on those principles.
My three steps to help me get into the Zone before a race.
- Get plenty of rest the night before racing, and get myself in the right frame of mind.
- Stay focused on positive outcome oriented statements, which visualize my success, at all times.
- Have fun and enjoy the fact that I have the ability to go racing. – Remember, racing is always a choice. No one is forcing you to do it. If the fear of performing at the racetrack is too strong, a driver always has the option to turn around and go home.
The key to getting your mind into the state into accessing the Zone is to not to force it. Triggering ‘the Zone’ means allowing your subconscious mind to take control of your body’s actions to get the performance that you require. Once I reach the racetrack, I clear my mind and focus on enjoying my driving, so that it is easier for me to slip into that positive mindset. By relaxing and allowing yourself to fall into a ‘flow’, your brain will start to fall into the rhythm of the racetrack, notice strong patterns in traffic, and allow you to put more energy into other portions of your driving.
When you do that state of mind, it is the sweetest feeling. The next step is once you enter the Zone is to be able to maintain that level of performance for the entire race distance, or at least during the sections that are the most important. I have personal mental triggers that help me realize that I have entered ‘the Zone’. Being able to identify those triggers helps a driver to figure out how you can program your brain to help generate the requirements needed to get into the Zone and stay there.
As a driver, I aim to reach this ‘Zone mental state’ every time that I’m behind the wheel. When I do, I know that I’m getting the maximum out of myself at the time. I may have more to develop as a driver, but in ‘the Zone’ I can be satisfied with my performance at the moment, before I hit the books and work on another area of my development.
One book that I would suggest all serious drivers to read “Overdrive: Formula One in the Zone” by Clyde Brolin. It talks in more detail about the mental state of the Zone, and how past great drivers have felt entering it. If you’re more interested about talking about entering the Zone, leave a note in the comments and we can either continue the discussion there, or I can write another post in more detail on it.
(Note: I will be defining the driver in the masculine tense throughout these articles, only because it makes it easier for me to write. (He, him, etc.) In reality, racing drivers can be both male and female. I actually encourage more women to get on the racetrack and start mixing it up!)