Pilot reflex training

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We interviewed Matteo Cantella, psycho-physical trainer of the pilots of Undertraining Sagl, a Swiss personal training company in Morbio Inferiore (Chiasso). Matteo follows GT, GT3 and Lamborghini Super Trofeo drivers.

Matteo, what kind of work can you do with the drivers from a reflex point of view?

There are four main areas: reaction speed, improved peripheral vision, reduced focus time, and manual eye coordination. In these areas it is possible to develop different exercises linked to each other and which allow a real improvement in the performance of the pilot.

Tell us how to train reaction speed!

Reaction speed is the time it takes for the human brain to perceive a certain stimulus (sensory, visual, tactile, etc.) and to process a reaction. If this aspect can be developed, the athlete spends less time between the entry and the moment of the physical reaction to the impulse itself. The reaction rate develops in milliseconds and is the shortest time an athlete can respond to a given stimulus. To improve it, reflex lights are used more, lights with programmed ignition that allow you to work first of all on various areas: not only eye-hand, but also eye-leg or coordination between arms and hands. These lights provide an end of session statistic with a graph with average reaction times. In this way, it is possible to assess the pilot’s improvement during the lessons. From the first week to the fifth/sixth, there is a typically 20 millisecond improvement, an indicator that we are headed in the right direction. The exercise is simply to turn off the light as quickly as possible. Clearly there are people who are more suited to the type of exercise and others less so. The important thing is to understand the initial level to understand how to improve.

On the other hand, how do you improve peripheral vision?

Peripheral view is useful in all sports where the athlete moves quickly within a circuit, such as in the world of motorsport, or in a space where objects move very quickly (hockey, football, etc.) . In motorsport it is useful to improve this feature first and foremost for their own safety and that of others, because by improving peripheral vision the athlete is able to stay focused on the visual focus in the direction they are heading . For example, in karting on a straight line where we are going at 120 km/h, or about 33 meters per second, at the peripheral level (if trained) we can get an idea of ​​what is happening around us without losing attention to driving direction. If we have an opponent inside before the next braking, we can monitor without losing sight of the braking point or the opponent in front of us (with the risk of a rear collision). A peripheral view ensures safety and performance. As an exercise you can use the lights, placing the athlete in a fixed position and placing the lights one pair at close range and one pair very far, both laterally and deep. By switching them on with a combined “near-far” sequence, you can achieve a complete workout.

Tell us about reducing development time!
This goes hand in hand with peripheral vision as they can be trained together. Focus speed is the speed at which the eye adapts to look at something near and far in the shortest possible time. A trained person can have 15-20 milliseconds of focus with an object 2 meters in view and a sidewalk 40-50 meters away. This is a big plus, as it makes you more precise while driving and allows for a better view. The sharpness of what you see increases, with advantages when overtaking to enter a hole the opponent has created without ending up on the grass. For this function, there are dynamic and static exercises. Dynamic are tennis balls and asymmetrical rubber balls with cusps that bounce on the floor irregularly, great adaptation training! Then there are static exercises with the lights in which you try to turn off the light as soon as possible (start simulation). There are also “blind drills” in which the athlete faces the wall, with the coach behind him throwing a ball against the wall: the ball enters the pilot’s field of vision, bounces off the wall and he must try to catch it before it falls to the ground! Ideal for stimulating the vestibular system and the central nervous system. Exercises also practiced by volleyball players and goalkeepers. In motorsport, it is customary to train athletes in the same position that they will take in the race, which is a rather awkward position. These limits recreate the situation on the track.

Tell us about hand-eye coordination!

With this aspect, we intend to connect and make the connection between the brain and the muscles as efficient as possible. Let’s take a typical situation in a race: 20-25 karts on the track, with opponents going right and left at the first corner. The brain must continue to correct and react to external stimuli. The situation can change in thousandths of a second and therefore to manage it in the best way, we need coordination between the control unit of our body (the brain) and the motor (the muscles) in the fastest possible way. . To develop it, you must perform work with a low reaction time combined with movement associated with the legs, arms or both. In practice, a stressful situation is simulated, such as starting and overtaking. You have to predict what other people are doing, which is the hardest thing. The hand-eye coordination exercise involves working on a visual impulse and working the body separately with the arms and legs. For example, you can activate certain colors on the legs and others on the arms. This continuous exchange of activation of the upper and lower part of the body allows the brain to develop a capacity for independence of the areas of the body. A bit like the eyes of the chameleon! Of course, you can do these exercises either at the start of a workout or at the end of a workout when you’re tired, to simulate running fatigue. Reflexes are not only necessary in qualifying, but especially when you are at the end of the race and tired!

Good training… this time some reflexes!


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