Train Like a Pro with Dr. Jason Richardson: Mental Preparation
Dr. Jason Richardson is a World Champion and Pan Am Games Gold Medalist, he earned his MBA and Doctorate in Psychology while completing as professional athlete. He’s worked with a number of well known athletes like Nikita Ducarroz, Jill Kintner and Arielle Martin to name a few.
Recently, I reached out to Dr. Richardson on the topic of mental preparation and got him to share some of his expert knowledge on how you can take your training to the next level. Before we do that though, let’s learn more about Dr. Richardson.
Beatrice: Growing up, what influenced your decision on getting a Doctorate in Psychology?
Dr. Richardson: I was already grown… I graduated college in 1997 and got my MBA in 2000. I decided to go back to school after I had recovered from breaking my leg in 2006. It made sense that I use my sport and business background to create a business that helps people achieve peak performance and life satisfaction. Getting my Doctorate, coupled with the fact that I was a pro athlete for 15 years, set me up to be the obvious choice for action sport athletes as well as a unique choice for businesses and team looking for a speaker/trainer.
|Swiss/American Rider Nikita Ducarroz, one of many athletes who have worked with Dr. Rich|
Beatrice: In terms of athletes, what is the definition of mental prep and how does it play into results? Is it important as your nutrition and training, or is it more important in your opinion?
Dr. Richardson: Mental prep is important. However, I would like to introduce the idea that Mindset is key. The physical training is a form of metal prep to certain degree, but the overall mindset – a belief one has about themselves, the world, and what is possible always wins out. The work I do with people is about mindset first… then we do things to retrain the mindset… then we do things to mentally prepare for an event. That said, an athletes training and skill development are always at the top of the list. This is inclusive of what one is feeding their brain and body!
Beatrice: What does being mentally prepared even feel like in competition?
Dr. Richardson: A willingness to see through what it is you set out to do. Candidly, an athlete may not feel prepared or even confident… but that doesn’t mean they are not prepared. The trick is to understand that our brains naturally go to these negative thoughts when we experience stress. So… are you willing, ready, and able to deal with the stress? Are you ready, willing, and able to do what you are trained to do DESPITE how you may feel?
Beatrice: What advice did you wish you had when you were racing at the elite level?
Dr. Richardson: I had a very long elite career and I worked with a sports psychologist for many of those years. In that regard, I was fortunate. However, I would have capitalized more on the racing both bikes and started to use my status to get in front of more people outside of the sport.
Beatrice: Your book “It’s All BS! We’re all wrong, and you’re all right!” was written for everyone, but is there one chapter most relatable to an athlete, and generally which chapter do you love the most?
Dr. Richardson: Self Esteem is Not Enough – But You Are! I think that is chapter 6. We make the mistake of thinking confidence is the key to our success. While confidence is nice and probably wanted – it is not necessary. This concept, once internalized, can really free an athlete up to be dangerous… in a good way!
Beatrice: What are some really common obstacles you deal with when it comes to your athletes?
Dr. Richardson: I like to offer everyone with whom I work a basic premise as to “how this will go down”. The trend I am noticing now, more than ever, is fear. Not that it is something new, but specific fear of injury (crashing) as it pertains to SX races.
Beatrice: You’ve helped so many athletes, and we don’t have to release any names … but was there ever an athlete you thought you couldn’t help?
Dr. Richardson: Of course! I am not for everyone and everyone is not for me. In many cases, when deciding to work together, it is a matter of creating rapport, trust, and seeing if the dynamic (chemistry) is good. If it is a case where those things are hard to create, for whatever reason, I want that athlete to find someone that would be more impactful to their success.
|Credit to Hannah Gallacher for suggesting that we write about this important topic!|
Beatrice: In freestyle BMX, eating healthy, training, ice baths… these things are only now being implemented as I think more freestyle athletes are seeing themselves as just that, athletes. In racing, was there ever a shift or were racers always professional as they are today? If there was a shift, when did it occur and was there a particular rider that lead the way?
Dr. Richardson: In racing there were several shifts. Christophe Leveque lead the way in the modern age (90s) and from there, the Olympic announcement and subsequent involvement created opportunities for the riders to learn from sport science and vice versa. I would also like to note that BMX racers were training and working hard in the 80s as well. I do not want to diminish the efforts of our predecessors.
Beatrice: Lastly, we need to ask for some free advice. Are there any techniques you can give us to remain focused in staging and do you have any tips to block out distractions?
Dr. Richardson: Create a routine. Preferably one that you do once out of the chutes (Like when you are a couple of motos behind the gate). I am a big proponent for controlling/using breathing, creating a physical trigger (like a hand clap, shaking out legs or little jumps)… then focusing on ONE thing. That ONE thing to focus on you want to be well within your control and simple to execute.