Many athletes experience pre-race nerves and anxiety before a big event. To counter those, an athlete should approach the starting line confident that they will give everything they have to give race day and come out with a good result. Easier said than done. I know.
A big race can be very foreboding. It’s the accumulation of many, many weeks and months of preparation. That’s a scary thought.
Here are a couple of tips for dealing with pre-race nerves and anxiety.
Look back over your training log. Hopefully, you keep some sort of record of the training you do throughout the year. If not well… that's a different issue! If you do have a log, then get it out and start flipping through the last 8 to 12 weeks of training before your race. You’ve come many, many miles since you started training. You’ve probably had way more early mornings than you wanted and suffered a lot more in sessions than you originally planned to. Sure, there are some blank days in there and times you completely bombed the workout but let your eyes gloss over those and key in on the successful days you’ve had. Recognize the strength you’ve shown grinding through sessions, and sometimes even smashing them, despite being fatigued. Draw on all of that for confidence and know that the hard work just doesn’t go away. You can execute on race day just like you’ve executed in countless training sessions.
Know that all you can do is do your best. As cliché as it sounds to just “do your best,” it really stands true when it comes to racing. Pre-race anxiety comes because we are comparing ourselves to our competition, a time standard, or some fictional version of ourself we want to be. If you remove all expectation of performance and just determine to give your best effort on the day, then there is no need to be anxious. You KNOW you can push yourself hard because you’ve done it in training. You know what pain is, you know adversity, none of those things are new. You’ve triumphed countless times already in your daily training and life. A race is just another chance to give the best effort you’re capable of and push yourself as hard as you can.
Pre-Race Nerves are a good thing! Being nervous means you care. Being nervous means the race matters. You do and it does. Use that knowledge to channel your anxiety in a positive way. Believe it or not, anxiety can actually be used to help you go fast on race day!
Be grateful for the opportunity to race. The physical talents we have are a blessing and the ability to do an event of any kind should not be taken for granted. Many people race for a cause or after having overcome cancer or another disease. What a great reminder of how blessed we are to be fit and well enough to compete.
Celebrate. Racing is a chance to express the hard work you’ve done. Treat the race as a celebration of your health, your fitness and the journey to get where you are. Most of the time you spend is on the actual journey and racing is just a chance to commemorate all the good (and miserable) times you've had along the way.
So good luck with whatever races you have left this year. Relish the opportunities you’re given. Seize the day and have fun!!