Q: “How do you stop falling asleep on the grid? I’ve been racing for years, and I find myself falling asleep on the grid often, so what can I do to deal with this?”
A: Get some sleep the night before! 🙂
Seriously, if a driver falls asleep on the grid, at least that means he/she is relaxed (although sleep is sometimes caused by nervous energy). If you feel as though you need to “wake up” and be more energized, I highly recommend doing Cross Crawls (if you’re not sure what they are, I’ve written about them extensively in my Speed Secrets books, and covered them in detail in my Inner Speed Secrets 201 eCourse – also, a short demo video here), as they help switch your brain on. But, just about any type of physical movement just prior to going to grid and getting in the car is important. Name me an athlete who doesn’t do some type of physical warmup before performing, so drivers should do the same.
However, I think what you might be getting at is a driver’s mental state just prior to going on track. For some drivers, being very relaxed triggers their performance state of mind, and for others they need to get “ramped up” a bit more. I’m not talking about being super-hyped, as that often leads to a poor state of mind. If a driver performs at their best after having the short nap just before going on track, then that’s a good thing – it’s the driver’s performance state of mind. But if it leads to a poor performance, then physical action just before getting in the car will help.
If you did want to “wake up” just a little in the last few minutes before the start, you might want to replay a past successful performance in your mind. Mentally imaging a past great performance, one where you were in that ideal performance state of mind, will often get your heart pumping a little faster and your mind in the ideal brain wave state. Think back to one of your very best performances (not necessarily your best result), and then replay in your mind how you felt before, during and after it. Do that for a few minutes and you’ll likely “wake up” just a little – but still be in that creative/open minded state.
But, maybe the nap time on the grid is a good thing? It’s a known scientific fact that our minds are more creative when in a relaxed state (an Alpha-Theta state), and you certainly have to be creative at the start of a race!
Another way to manage your state of mind just prior to going on the track is to manage your breathing. If you’re too relaxed, deliberately take a number of quick, heavy breaths, in and out. Speed up your mind by speeding up your breathing. And if you need the opposite – to calm down – deliberately slow your breathing.
I remember watching the Indy 500 ages ago. Rick Mears was on the pole. His pre-race relaxation technique resulted in him falling asleep. When the “Gentlemen, start you engines” command came, the crew first had to wake him up. Apparently, this was not uncommon for him.
Great stuff, Ross! I’ve fallen asleep on the grid many times and found that it triggered a calmness and focus that allowed me to perform well. I called it “Laser-mode” 🙂 This always occurred after doing cross-crawls and lazy-8’s before climbing into the car. It’s a great place to be right before a race.
Keep up the great work!