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Getting Better in the Offseason

Greg Troester January 7, 2024 0 comments

The season is long-since past. If you’re in Utah, then we just got some real snow for winter – always a fun time! So… now what? Sure, you’ve got a laundry list of things to do to your car, improving and maintaining it for next year.

But what about mixing things up? The season can get kind of exhausting for all of us: drivers, instructors, volunteers alike. How can we come back to the 2024 season feeling fired-up and ready to rumble?

Here are a few ideas on how to spend your time over the next few months as your track toy hibernates under the car cover (or lies in pieces on the garage floor).

Have Fun Carving the Powder (or Waves)

Plenty of my fellow racers are ski bums/bunnies, so this is kind of for them… but if you’re an occasional patron of the slopes then this is especially for you!

When we drive, what are we doing? We’re managing weight balance and grip, looking ahead and projecting lines, adjusting to circumstances and learning… hopefully having fun, too!

Skiing or snowboarding is the exact same thing! So if you haven’t hit the slopes in a while, then maybe this winter you buy a day pass and go enjoy one of the greatest things about living in Utah?

While you’re out there, take a few minutes and think about what you’re doing with your feet, legs, arms, torso – feel how you can manipulate your trajectory and speed on the snow and think of how it’s similar to your car. Thinking of one should hopefully help the other.

When you’re pumping through the powder, you’re going to be able to choose many lines but have to work pretty hard sometimes to keep your speed up. This’ll take focus, determination, some fitness, and constant attention to maintaining speed and balance so you don’t get bogged-down. It’s kind of like when you’re “dialed-in”, right? You have to be really focused and working your car’s capabilities in order to stay on-track. Taking it easy can quickly turn into an off-track-excursion or result in you under-driving the car and just cruising.

On an icy day, you’ll be working hard to manage grip. It’s easy to catch an edge or have your skis chatter across the mountainside, rather than get a good bite into the snow. This is kind of like a day where things just don’t feel quite right… but you have to work with the conditions and see what you can make of them. Don’t over-work your “tires” (skis) and try to play with balance and some alternative lines to get to where you want to go.

Lastly – just enjoy it! Cruising and taking it easy is a great way to get some sun, stay active, and let your brain take a well-deserved rest from being “on”.

Get to the Gym

New Year’s Resolutions aside… has your fitness routine taken a back-seat to your gas-powered adventures? Maybe you found yourself with a sore back, kinked neck, or some other odd aches and pains at the end of some weekends? How easy is it to hoof wheels and tires around?

This was me a few years ago. The twenties were kind to me, but thirty was showing me just how much I had taken for granted! Fortunately, I’d had good experiences with training for sports or just for the sake of general health over the years and I knew what to do: find something that I enjoyed and get after it!

For me, I tend to like working towards goals: maybe it’s a 5k or Half-Marathon running event in the sprint; other times, it’s been increasing my weight-lifting abilities to join “the three-plate club” in some of the major barbell lifts.

Most recently, I missed the overall health benefits I felt as a high school wrestler – so I joined a Jiu-Jitsu gym. I liked it so much that I signed up for a couple of tournaments to act as a commitment device to keep me motivated – it worked. I prioritized training sessions and get as good as I could in about ten months, taking home a bronze and then a gold in my weight/belt classes.

What I’ve found is that so long as I was doing things that were physically and mentally challenging outside of the car, I felt better inside the car. On a hot day in July or when the 45-minute mark came around in my 2-hour stint in the NASA 6-Hour Enduro, I felt very confident that I had endured harder physical challenges very recently. It gave me confidence that if I focused on the task at-hand, my body was fully capable of doing what it needed to. In fact, it made me feel better, imagining that my fellow competitors probably hadn’t trained as hard as I had, physically, recently. It gives you a mental edge, in my opinion, when the last few laps are winding down and you’re making moves to vie for the podium.

Not to mention-being stronger and fitter will benefit your life, in general!

Learn Something New

There’s nothing quite a freeing as being a newbie at something, is there? You can go into a new subject, skill, or situation know that: you’ll definitely learn something new, the initial gains might be hard… but they’ll pay off in spades, and you already know how to learn, which is half the battle.

Just like at the track, take notes about this new thing: what did you learn today? What is challenging and how might you experiment to get a little better at it? What sorts of situations tend to make the task easier, harder, or indifferent?

The process of learning is largely the same, no matter what you’re doing: take in information, experiment, ask questions, follow the lead of experts (or at least people who know what they’re doing a bit better than you do!), and enjoy it!

Depending on what you’re doing, you may even develop a complimentary skill that’ll help you drive or work on your car.

Here are some ideas:

  • Sign up for a webinar on car setup
  • Find a YouTube series on how to configure a data system and analyze your driving
  • Buy some Smart Strings and camber gauge and do your own alignment (even on your street cars! A toe-set alignment can do wonders for improper tire wear)
  • Sign up for a fitness group or class
  • Look at the continuing education offerings at your local community college or university – learn how to weld, mount tires, or do some body work

Take it Easy on the Sim

Maybe Santa brought you a Sim Rig – great! Those first few months on a new toy are always fun and exciting. Not to mention: you’re learning new skills!

Sim driving is very, very different from driving IRL. The software and hardware available to us today are mind-blowingly realistic for more affordable prices than they’ve ever been. BUT – you’re going to miss the “seat feel”.

So – some words of advice: drive a car you’ve never driven before, on tracks you’ve never driven. Take some of the expectation out of the equation: you won’t be saying “well I should be able to brake here, so the sim is obviously wrong” and spend 45 minutes flying into a digital retaining wall.

Keep it fun! If you’re working too hard, you’ll likely end up mothballing the sim in a short while – what a waste!

Go to Other Tracks

I covered how I learned to drive a new track before this season and let me just say this: it was one of the best weekends I’ve had in my many years of racing!

Not only do you get the advantages of being a “newbie” (so don’t worry about setting a new track record), but you’ll find that you get to add a whole new set of corners to your mental toolbox that may just help you go faster at a home track this year!

Maybe getting in a few track days in the winter is all that is in the budget, but even if it costs you a weekend at home next year… seriously consider going to a new track – maybe with a friend or five!

You’ll come back home with fun stories you’d never otherwise have, fresh and ready to drive the “same old track again” with new eyes.

Whatever You Do – Do Something Different!

The point is: go do something other than what you’ve been doing lately! Variety does us good in ways we can perceive and in ways we don’t even notice. It helps keep us from getting bored with the hobby we love because we actually have a “life” outside of that hobby.

The goal is to come back for 2024 feeling fresh and excited to change things up from the winter activities you’ve been busy with… maybe with a few new tricks up your sleeve!

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