No matter how long you’ve been in the sport, it’s still normal to feel pre-race jitters
Photos by Ashley de Lotz and Óscar Salgado/Unsplash
Whether you’re a newbie or a veteran, pre-race jitters are common and completely natural. The ironic thing is that these nerves usually come from either not knowing what to expect or dreading reliving the experience.
It’s as if you’re in a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation. Either way, overthinking and worrying are counterproductive to your race performance as it not only drains you of energy, it can also spiral into a mindset of negativity.
Since the body usually follows what the mind dictates, it’s important that we control our thoughts and emotions prior to any race. Over the years, I’ve picked up a few tips on how to handle pre-race jitters. Here are a few of the most important ones:
Preparation is key
The better prepared you are, the less worry you should have. My tip here is to not only plan out and execute your program properly but also try and mimic race conditions such that you familiarize yourself with what to expect and how everything feels.
Whether it be doing bricks or simulations, the whole race experience can be mimicked (somewhat) in training. Of course, nothing replaces the real thing so just be prepared for a few things to differ on the day itself.
Have a checklist
To make sure you don’t forget anything on race day itself, list down all the things you need for the race. Start from your travel and make your way to the race itself. Things like race belts, sunblock, nutrition, and even chargers are a few common things that athletes forget. Prepare these well in advance and ask what other people are bringing so you get some ideas.
Mentally rehearse the race
Related to the previous point, imagine going through the motions a few days prior to the race. This will not only help you remember the stuff you need, it will also help you familiarize yourself with the whole experience.
Think of what you’ll do at certain points and even imagine possible setbacks. The important thing here is that you should always think of ways to conquer setbacks and troubles rather than fixate on them. For example, make sure you know how to fix a flat tire or prepare your supplements (such as pickle juice) in case you cramp.
Having keyphrases such as “power!” “I can do this!” and “fast feet” are a few examples of what professional athletes use to help motivate them during the race. It’s important you do this in training especially when you’re struggling or pushing really hard. This will help you stay positive and keep your focus during rough patches. The phrase can be unique to you so there’s a personal touch to make it more relatable.
Focus on things you can control
It’s easy to get caught up in things such as the weather, what your competitors are doing, and other external factors. The problem with this is that you can’t do anything about them. You’re left with worry and even a sense of panic due to lack of control.
Instead, focus on what you can actually change and influence such as your training, nutrition, and gear. Doing so allows you to regain your sense of control and develop a sense of positivity.
Just remember, no matter how long you’ve been in the sport, it’s normal to feel anxious and stressed before the race. These are normal human emotions, especially if you’ve prepared for something for such a long time.
The important thing to remember is to not be a slave to your thoughts and emotions. Take control and turn negative thoughts into something more proactive and positive. Anything can happen on race day but as long as you’re prepared for it, you can overcome whatever it may be.
Have some training questions, feedback or suggestions for future articles? Drop a note in the comments section below or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. You can also get in touch with Don directly here.