Saturday, September 22, 2001 - Perspective
NSDT Update: Automatic

- By: Tara Whitten

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Yesterday morning I woke up to rain and grey skies, but as the clouds cleared a little they revealed snow-covered peaks everywhere I looked. It was quite a sight, and a sure sign that fall is here and that the ski season is just around the corner. Yellow leaves and cool temperatures confirmed my suspicion - before we know it, snow will be flying. With any luck it will be from the skies and not from the blue snow blowing machines, but hey, we'll take what we can get!

I'm going to go off on a little tangent here. When I was learning to drive (which I discovered to my dismay was over five years ago since I had to renew my license this summer), my driving instructor told me that in order to become really proficient at driving a manual transmission, the 'manual' part would have to become 'automatic.' At the time it was hard to believe that I would be able to shift gears without really thinking about every step involved, but sure enough as with so many other things that we do regularly, it didn't take long before my instructors' words rang true. When I think about it, there are really so many things that we do automatically, without thinking. I can still play a song that I learned in piano lessons in grade seven, even though I can't do anything else remotely musical on a piano. My fingers just somehow know where to go, so I can play it without thinking.

Now I'm going to finally get to the part where this carries over to skiing. Besides the obvious carry-over to technique work, I believe that this ability to make simple things 'automatic' can help us to become better athletes. The small details that we all know we should pay attention to but which frequently get overlooked, such as stretching, staying hydrated, eating properly, getting massages, etc., must become automatic parts of our day. I don't have to 'remember' to brush my teeth before I go to bed; I just do because I have every day for as long as I can remember. My excuse is often that I get to the end of the day and I forget to stretch, but if I just started a normal routine where I stretch every night before I go to bed, or every morning after I wake up, it wouldn't be a matter of forgetting. I would just do it, without question, the same way I brush my teeth and shift the gears of my car. Automatically.

As the winter quickly approaches, skiers always start worrying more and more about 'doing everything right' and 'taking care of the details.' My advice: make it automatic, so that you don't have to even think about the details. You just do them without thinking.

(Tara Whitten is a former member for the Canadian National Junior Team and a 3 time member of the Canadian World Junior Championship Team. Originally from Edmonton, Tara now lives and trains with the National Senior Team in Canmore, Alberta)

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