Q: “What are some ways I can increase my reaction time and hand speed? I’ve found that at times my reactions are a bit delayed. I usually find I’m not looking far enough ahead, as I’m focusing on a car or a turn that is taking my attention.”
A: I think there are two parts to your question – or, at least, to what you’re trying to improve. First, there’s the cue to your brain that something needs a reaction, and then there’s the actual physical reaction.
For the cue, for sure, looking further ahead will make a difference. There is not a driver in the world who shouldn’t be reminding themselves to look further ahead. I recommend practicing this when driving on the road, as you spend more time there, and that’s where many of our habits are developed. Practice looking through and ahead of the cars in front of you.
We react not only to visual cues, though. Doing what I call Sensory Input Sessions, where you focus entirely on one sense at a time – visual, kinesthetic, auditory – for an entire on-track session will make your mind more sensitive to picking up all sensory cues. If you do these sessions at the conscious level every now and then, your subconscious mind will learn to pick up the cues earlier. The earlier you pick up the cues, the less it becomes about having fast physical reactions.
Next, physical reactions, and specifically hand speed. This is a physical skill like any other, which means it can be developed through deliberate practice. Practice time on a skid pad, where you quickly catch slides will help. Using a variety of apps designed to improve reaction time will help. Practicing turning the steering wheel quicker on a simulator, or even sitting still in your car (front tires in the air so you can turn the wheel) will help. Playing other sports (racket sports like squash or racquetball are great) will also make a difference. There are specific reaction drill exercises that athletes use (Google “reaction drills”) that I have my coaching clients use. Anything you can do to practice moving your hands faster will help.
I’m confident that with a little practice looking further ahead when driving on the road, combined with the Sensory Input Sessions and reaction drills, you will see a noticeable impact on your driving.
Oh, one last thing. Many times, what restricts hand speed and reactions is tenseness in your body. The next time you’re on track, be aware of your breathing. Deliberately breathe more, and notice how relaxed your body is. You may find that simply by relaxing more, you’ll react faster.
You’re very smart to focus practice time on things like this. I’m sure you’ll notice a difference with your driving.