Pre-race anxiety is a widespread feeling among athletes, regardless of experience or sport practiced. The combination of butterflies in the stomach, nervousness and excitement, combined with performance anxiety, usually occurs a few days before the event or at the starting line. There are several ways to manage stress and turn negative agitation into positive energy. Here are seven simple tips.
1. Plan well in advance
The first tip is to plan ahead and arrive at the location with plenty of time. It is likely that you are already stressed about the race, so avoid the added anxiety of missing the start after all these months of training. Try to go into autopilot mode and perform your usual warm-up routine to relieve tension and nervousness. Then try to react calmly to any eventuality: stress costs precious energy.
2. Be prepared for adversity
Ideally, you would like to experience a perfect day in which the race runs smoothly and you achieve your goals. However, endurance competitions often present challenges, surprises, and setbacks along the way. Be prepared to have backup plans in case things do not go as planned. This will help you stay calm in tense situations. You can also train yourself to handle adversity: test transitions, practice changing a tire, swim without goggles, experiment with nutrition, study the map. In this way, you will already be prepared to deal with any problematic situations during the race.
3. Keep your motivations in mind and communicate with others
Regularly ask yourself “Why did I sign up for this race?” and use motivation as a source of positive energy during the race. Try to identify sources of uncertainty and deal with them rationally. Focus on the elements you can control, such as nutrition, sleep and warm-up. Keep a positive mindset and talk to friends and family: sharing fears and feelings with people you trust can relieve stress and give you a sense of support.
4. Trust your training
Often, anxiety arises from fear of failure, performance pressure, and feelings of not being adequately prepared for the race. Trust your training-you know how many hours, days, and months you’ve put in to get to this point! It is easy to forget this when you are anxious about the race; your mind can trick you when you are under pressure. Review your training log, tangible evidence of the hard work you have done so far, to boost your confidence. Focus on the process rather than the result.
5. Techniques to relax the mind
The mind has tremendous power in influencing our actions and feelings, but there are several activities that can help calm it down and regain control. Here is a short list:
- Yoga and meditation: these are great ways to relax the mind and body.
- Deep breathing: practice diaphragmatic breathing, inhaling slowly through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.
- Mantras: create short, powerful statements to use before and during the race to maintain concentration even in complex situations.
- Spend time outdoors: go for a hike, organize a picnic at the lake, or simply relax in your backyard.
- Listen to music: both to relax and to boost you up, music is a great tool for dealing positively with the race.
6. Plan a race strategy
Leave nothing to chance: inform yourself about every aspect of the race and plan a detailed strategy. Carefully study the route, calculate the expected finish time, decide on the pace to be maintained for each kilometer, converse with other participants, identify refreshment stations, and plan your nutrition. These activities will help you feel in control of the situation and have a positive impact on your performance.
Last but not least, visualization: imagining pleasant scenes and emotions can be very helpful in finding the determination you need to face the race and reduce anxiety. Visualize how you will overcome difficulties, explore scenarios in advance, and imagine the route. Experience in your mind’s eye the moment when you cross the finish line, hearing thousands of spectators cheering your name and applauding you, while your family embraces you. This visualization of intense emotions will give you the boost you need to set off in the right mindset.