Road trip essentials: foam roller.
– Matt Berger
We all have something stuck between our eyes that can be both our best mate and our worst enemy at the same time. Something that one moment seems to have your back and then the next, tells you you're a fat bastard. I'm talking about the mind.
We've all heard the cliché (RIP) comment that skateboarding is mostly mental, but this is always referring to when you're actually skating. What about when your session comes to an end, how does your mind affect things then? Well it seems like it can have a pretty big effect, not only on recovery, but also how well you learn new tricks, how motivated you are, and even how you skate in following sessions. This post-session mental state is what this one's about.
how does your mind affect recovery?
So to understand how your mind and mental state can affect your skating and recovery we need to talk about the control centre of many of the physiological changes in your body: the autonomic nervous system. Just to give a quick overview, your autonomic nervous system is split up into two sides: the sympathetic system (commonly known as the fight or flight system), and the parasympathetic system (known as the rest and digest system). Both sides are crucial for your survival and they work together to create balance in your body.
The fight or flight system prepares your body for any kind of stress or action by increasing heart rate, increasing blood flow to your muscles, slowing down digestion, and basically just charging you up and making a load of energy available so you can do things like running from a lion, skateboarding, exercise in general, and any other kind of stress you might need to handle. Mental stresses also trigger it in the same way, so if you've got beef with your boss, get snaked by a scooter kid, or you've got work or relationship problems, your fight or flight system will be triggered. Stress alone isn't bad and temporary stress is necessary and beneficial on many levels, however, sustained high stress can start to cause serious problems, and will even put you in a coffin faster...
The rest and digest system takes over when you're chilling and out of danger both physically and mentally, and promotes things like slowing heart rate, digestion, along with recovery and repairing the damage you’ll have done during your session, amongst other things. Like I said stress affects your body in the same way regardless of whether it’s physical or mental, so even though you might have stopped skating, if you’re still highly stressed for whatever reason, maybe because you didn't get your trick or because you suck at skating, you're still going to be in that fight or flight mode, and that can slow down recovery and prevent you from recovering as good as you could. Greater activity of the rest and digest system is generally related to a better recovery state.
what to do after your session?
So then obviously the goal after your session is to bring yourself into a relaxed state both physically and mentally with the hope of enhancing recovery, and this is one of the main purposes of a "cool-down". How you choose to relax really doesn’t really matter as long as it brings you into chill mode both mentally and physically. It can be as simple as just razzing some light post-skate stretches, breathing deep, chilling with some mates and eating some food, or even watching some of the clips you filmed and getting hyped on yourself. If you're doing this last thing then great, you're one step ahead of this article and you're about to find out about the potential benefits it could have...
the effect of feedback on learning and motivation.
I know far too well that having a bad session sucks and leaving a spot without getting a trick is even worse, but this stress and essentially disappointment with yourself, can not only potentially negatively affect recovery, but possibly affect your ability to lock in the trick you were trying too, along with reducing your motivation to try it again and even affecting your skating in following sessions.
There was some research done on the effects of feedback on task learning where people learning something new were either given positive feedback in response to their efforts, or negative feedback. The one's that were given the positive feedback learned the new task faster, and were more motivated and willing to try the same task again in the future. Alongside this, another super interesting study was done on some rugby players, where after a match the players were shown either good footage of their play along with positive feedback from the coach, or bad footage and their mistakes, along with negative feedback from the coach. The quality of their play was then monitored in the next match one week later and the players who received positive feedback performed better than the ones that received negative feedback.
This just goes to show that your perception of how you've done something can influence how well you do that same thing next time, how fast you learn, and how motivated you are to try it again. Considering learning tricks can sometimes take weeks, in my opinion anything that might speed up the process and help you lock it in faster is useful.
If you've had a good session it's easy to think positive, the difficult part is changing your perception if you've had a bad session or you didn't get your trick. I know it can be difficult to think positively in these situations but unless you sprained your ankle on your first trick, there's gotta be something positive you can focus on; maybe the fact that just by trying a trick for a while you’ve taken a step towards getting it, or maybe you can get hyped on the fact that you overcame the fear of trying a trick.