By William Fraser, MC
Mikey Ciccarelli was a contest guru and former Team Canada athlete who recently became a backcountry master. In his first two years riding backcountry, he filmed the opener for The King Snow Movie and landed the last part in the new Burton film, Ark. Mikey is a guy who has done so much but still has so much more to offer. He must have some tricks that help him perform. This Psych Hack piece locks into that, as Mikey talks about how he stays dialled in on the hill.
Mikey! As we said, we're gonna chat about your personal psych hacks. What are some tricks that you use to dial yourself in?
Self-talk, for me, is the most important. I define it as being your own supporter. If I'm talking to myself in a good, positive way, rather than saying, "I can't believe I just fell off that Front Board early," my day will go better. If I let the negative talk keep going, it can compound. It'll show up in my brain and then in my riding. The positive self-talk helps me trust myself and not be so hard on myself when things aren't going my way.
What sort of things do you say, specifically?
I'll say simple things to help my mind, like, "You got this." Or, “Trust the process.” Or, I'll start looking around. I was taught by Chris Bertram, a sports psych, to "Take my eyes up" and look at what is around me. In the backcountry, I might look at the gorgeous setting before I drop, reminding myself how I love being there. This shifts my perspective for a second. It also shifts my body language from being slouched to more open. I feel more confident. I'm even able to breathe better.
I really like that one. When I get in my head, I almost get self-obsessed. It's like I can't see anything outside of my mistakes. What other tips do you have?
My next hack is breathwork. The technique I use for that is four-seven-eight. You breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for seven, and exhale for eight. I do that A LOT during the season, especially when I can't sleep. I'll admit it, I can be an anxious guy, especially when anticipating what I'm getting into the next day. The breathing slows me down and helps me relax, dropping my heart rate.
I'm reading a book on breathwork right now. It is called Breath. It's about how breathing affects your whole body. How it can make you anxious, relaxed, etc. I recommend it. What's the last tip you got?
The last one is common. It's visualization. I think if you can visualize yourself doing something, you'll have a much better chance of doing it. It can be tricky, though. In my contest years, coaches would ask, "Can you visualize it?" And, to be honest, I wouldn't always be able to see the whole trick. I would lose parts of it in my mind. I'm the best at visualizing from the filmers angle. But it's also good to imagine what you're doing from your own perspective. This can help you spot the landing and see where you need to be. If you can do both, it's like you're completely doing the trick.
Any last thing you want to leave us with?
I guess I also wanna stress that all these things are helpful and important, but don't really let them take away from having fun when riding if that makes sense. Have fun snowboarding. That could be the last hack. You ride your best when having fun out there.
The Rise of Superman, by Steven Kotler
The Art of the Impossible, by Steven Kotler
These books are cool because they use action sports athletes to explain how they help themselves get into flow states. The Art of the Impossible is also about everyday people. Not just athletes.