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Moto’s sports science column with Will Harrison - Pre-Performance routines and superstitions

Moto’s sports science column with Will Harrison - Pre-Performance routines and superstitions

featuring James Dunn

james-dunnMany of us have our own weird and wonderful superstitious concoctions on race day. As crazy as it sounds, superstition can play an important role in our racing as these rituals can influence many factors which determine our performance. Firstly, it’s worth differentiating pre-performance routines and superstitions:

  • We control pre-performance routines as we can decide how to develop a routine which will help us to mentally and physically prepare for a race.
  • Superstitions control us. These usually form in association with particularly good or bad past performances. We perform superstitious rituals to try and replicate those previous good performances or alternatively disassociate ourselves from the bad ones.

Pre-performance routines have many benefits that will help us to improve our performance on the bike. Through a pre-performance routine we can regulate our level of arousal to increase our energy levels, improve our confidence by ‘stalling’ negative thoughts and focus our attention toward the variables which are in our control (see February article). Pre-performance routines are essential if you wish to reduce anxiety or relax muscles to reduce arm-pump. I’ll explain exactly how next month.

I caught up with James Dunn as he talks pre-performance routines, tips and explains why he always has the cleanest camper in the paddock!

Will Harrison: Do you have any pre-performance routines?

James Dunn: “I always like to make sure my mind set and mood is correct for what I’m about to do. My preparation isn’t set in stone- I listen to my body so I can prepare correctly for the days racing.”

WH: What has your weirdest superstition been?

JD: “I always like to keep things neat and tidy. I have to sweep the camper out before and after I get changed with each moto!”

WH: Talk us through how you prepare in the week and on the morning of a race…

JD: “In the week leading up to any big event I’ll make sure that I do my normal routine. This consists of a couple of days riding and gym training. I try not worry about the weekend too much; if you haven’t put in the hard work and preparation in the months before then it’s too late to start now!  Mentally, I’ll know I’m ready. Anything done in the week before is just an added benefit to help me that weekend.”

JD: “On the morning of a race I like to get up early and have plenty of time. I hate rushing!  I’ll have breakfast first, then go and study the track. Once that’s out of the way I’ll go back and focus myself on the job; playing some music always helps. Whilst getting kitted up I think through the track and talk to my dad about anything he may have spotted- I believe it’s good to have a second opinion. Once the helmet is on everything is irrelevant and I just ride the bike and have fun!”

WH: If you could only suggest one routine ‘top-tip’ for the readers, which helps you to prepare on race day… what would it be? 

JD: “Personally, I always make sure I have the correct food available and prepared for race day. It helps me perform at my best as I’ve already accounted for my diet. I think it comes down to trial and error, but it’s important to find out what works best for every individual.”

It is clear pre-performance routines and superstitions inter-relate. Personalities and characteristics change the way we interpret situations, which means some of us are more likely than others to be open to superstition. Many believe superstitions aren’t good for performance; however as long as we have control and the superstition acts as a valuable part of a pre-performance routine why shouldn’t we include it?

Do you feel anxiety affects your performance? Tune in to next month’s tip-tastic column which explains how and why we should look at reducing our anxiety to improve racing performance.

As always, feel free to check out or e-mail if you would like any more sports science advice.

Read all of Will’s Sports Science Columns HERE


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