Last week, I took my first waterski set of the season. (Yeah, late start!)
I started at a really easy speed because it’s been seven years since I competed, and I haven’t been training much. I completed two beautiful, easy passes through the course at that speed. So I increased to the next speed and ran a couple more passes. They were easy too. So I increased the speed again, now at the maximum speed for women (34mph), and those passes were still so simple, smooth, and clean that I went ahead and shortened the rope. Again: easy. So I shortened the rope again. And again. And again.
I ended up skiing a performance that would have probably placed in the top five at Nationals, back when I was competing.
This was on my first set of the season! After not skiing a single tournament for seven years! And not training, not visualizing, and not being as physically fit as before!
I’m not talking about this to brag. I’m talking about this because I was struck by the amazing power and importance of working on the foundation. It was the strong foundation I had built over 25 years of ski practice that allowed me to ski cleanly, well, and strong – even though I haven’t been training for a long time.
I was curious. I did a quick estimate of the number of passes I’ve taken through the slalom course since I first started skiing at age 12. I came up with a back-of-the-envelope guesstimate of 78,000 passes. Each pass consists of six “pulls” to get around the six buoys on the course, so that’s something in the neighborhood of 468,000 pulls.
Nearly a half a million repetitions of a movement.
And here’s the important thing:
The great majority of those repetitions were done as cleanly and perfectly as possible, at the easier levels of difficulty. A half-million repetitions of a sloppy or lazy or incorrect movement doesn’t build that same foundation!
This is a message we could probably all benefit from being reminded of. Myself included. When I’m working on my voice, I often stop working on something new after I feel like I’ve “gotten” it.
But if you stop shortly after “getting” it, that new technique isn’t really in your arsenal for use whenever you want.
This was made clear last week in the studio when I was recording the STAR ballad “One.” There is a loud, high section in the climax of the song that used to be hard to sing with good tone. But recently, I learned how to access a more open and pleasant tone while maintaining power and volume.
And I can even do it in the studio now… until the moment we record.
The moment we start to record, my brain goes back to default mode. And it makes some kind of minute adjustment, which brings a degree of tension back into my voice.
This is because the foundation isn’t yet built for those notes. They haven’t been sung a half million times. Shoot, they probably haven’t even been sung correctly a hundred times yet!
So if you’re finding yourself performing below your expectations when the pressure is on, ask yourself: how much have you really developed your foundation?
(c) 2010 Adrienne Osborn