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3, 2, F1, Go…

Singapore has recently hosted the first F1 international night race. A weekend of ‘hell and fury’, noise, speed, of leaders and followers. I’ve been reading about the drivers and track and all the paraphernalia that goes along with the event. Because I see the mind as a high-performance machine, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to tie thought to track and take them out for a spin.

It’s not just sitting and steering

I was looking at the training of the guys who ‘sit in the car’ and scoot around the track. Impressive. While ‘unbulky’ enough to fit into the cockpit, these men need to be in peak physical (4 hours of cardio a day!) and mental condition to handle the physical stresses of performance. One piece of information that struck me is that drivers experience up to 5g (g=acceleration due to gravity) which is exerted on their bodies. Even the task of holding up the head with a helmet, at a usual weight of 6kg, becomes more difficult with that speed load of 30kg. This has resulted in a piece of training equipment that specifically strengthens the muscles of the neck.

Imagine having trouble holding your own cranium upright. It might not be that far from an experience all of us have experienced. Take the deadline of an important proposal, the organisation of a 6-year-olds birthday, or a full-house of visitors, which usually happens while the rest of ‘everyday life’ continues – the latter is the 6kg we’ve become used to, the additional stressors create the 5g force – which may make us feel like we have trouble keeping our head above it all. While most people tend to get through it all, we sometimes forget to prepare for, or appreciate our performance during these ‘race’ times of our life. Without having to spray champagne on everyone, it may be a good idea to realise that during these stress-full times we need to take care of ourselves just as an elite athlete does, or give ourselves praise for the completion of some very important laps in life.

The power of being in the pits

I’ve read that the Singapore track doesn’t give many opportunities for passing and so some of the key times for getting ahead may be in the pits. Within approximately 7 seconds the tank is refuelled, tires are changed and the car is checked – then it’s right back up to flying speed. This time is a necessary part of the race, and a time when the driver does nothing but sit and wait for the lollipop man (the guy with signs that say ‘brake on’ and ‘brake off and in gear’) to move the sign to let him know it’s blast off time. If the cars went around and around without this break, there may be technical issues (tires peel off for example) that hinder getting to the finish line successfully.

What are your pit stops? Just like the subconscious and unconscious mind, the pit crew are working away with specific duties that may not get the spotlight of the drivers, but serve critical and indispensable functions. For the body it may be enough sleep, or exercise, fresh air or healthy foods (or all of the above), for the mind it may be a positive distraction with a hobby or project that you love rather than have to do, time with friends or people who raise you up, or doing nothing at all. Remember, it may not be something you, the driver, ‘does’ – it might be taking some time out to do nothing or let others take the lead. It’s usually after the breaks that we can get back on track.

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes

A friend was working behind the scenes coordinating the comings and goings of drum groups, dancers, comedy routines – things that accompanied and enhanced the main act. Just thinking of all the security, lighting, track development, technical maintenance, catering, general support that is going on so that the event functions properly. This is the same with you. While your goals (the race) may be conscious, the planning and prep work that influences the final outcome has been in the works for years (subconscious), and even while it’s happening the functioning can be undermined or enhanced because of workings behind the scene. Just as we can gloss over the years of work behind a less than 2 hour run, we can forget all the background ‘stuff’ that affects our performance on a conscious level.

When night becomes day

I’m not sure the amp value of all the lights necessary for the first ‘night’ race, but from what others have said of the location, it seemed just the same as daytime – the brightness eclipsed any thought of dark. In one of the interviews with a driver on the effects that a chance of night rain during the race might have on the race, he answered that with the right amount of lighting it would just be the same as a day rain. In fact, he mentioned that the tunnel at Monaco, to the drivers at least, doesn’t really exist – the lighting makes it the same as the outside, and their focus is such so that they are concentrating on the road, not the scenes around them. What a wonderful idea to translate into ‘real’ life. While we may not have control over all of our environment, we can (instead of focusing on the problems or difficulty of the situation) focus our energy both to create certain supportive conditions that will be constant in our undertakings and just plain focus on the most important task at hand. Where our focus goes, our energy flows – and there may be less than ideal circumstances around us, but this positive ‘tunnel’ vision helps us to remain on course.

Developing your F1 muscles

All in all, I learned a few things from the F1, which I thought I’d pass along to you – race with them if they are helpful to you:

  • Mental and physical health – this is of top concern for all teams in the performance and results of the drivers and their vehicles. Supporting physical health through exercise, fresh food and quality sleep, as well as relaxation and mental calm are key in personal performance.
  • Focus – drivers are amazing at shutting out the noise of the outside world so that they stay composed at critical times. Sometimes they use a ‘trigger’ like the snapping of a seatbelt to be their ‘on’ button for focus – you might use sitting down at your desk, or typing in a password, or the first sip of coffee as your tune in activator.
  • Purpose – while there may be many reasons for winning, that is one of the main points of the F1 races. Finding the value and meaning in the things we do (above and beyond “because I HAVE to”) can make our course easier.
  • Support – F1 drivers would be nowhere without their technical team – the whole creates the success of one. Look at your support system and see if there are gaps in the squad – full resources make for a more seamless success.
  • Training for success – just as with other athletes, drivers train with the expectation of enhancing, improving, and achieving. This positive single-mindedness assists them in being able to execute the challenging job they have. This is a great attitude to emulate – remember, one race is just part of a season, so the next time you’ll be even better!

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