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How to Beat Race Day Nerves

How to Beat Race Day Nerves

It’s not a secret that I like to race a lot.  In fact, I’ve written posts about how to “race well,” or even “racing my way to fitness.”  It works well for me as I typically train very easy throughout the week.

Since I race so frequently, racing doesn’t make me as nervous anymore.  I get more nervous before a workout than I do before a race.  I suppose that has come with both time and just racing a lot.

A few weeks ago, a reader asked me how I beat race nerves as well as race anxiety and if I would be open to writing a post about it. Big races and goal races can cause more pre-race anxiety and nerves than tune-up races. I’ve learned that training your mind and mental game is just as important as following your mileage training plan.

The short answer is race until you’re not as nervous anymore. 

I’m sure you wanted the long answer, though.

Here are a few strategies I use to Beat Race Day Nerves:

Before the Race:

Visualize:

This is more something to do before the actual race.  The day leading up to the race (if I plan too), I like to visualize goals and success.  It’s actually something I picked up in collegiate swimming. Running is 90% mental, and if you believe you’ll do well, you’ve already won most of the battle. You have to be ready to race.

Look Back at Your Training Logs:

The night before a race, look at those workouts you didn’t think you would crush, but you did.  This is motivational for bigger races when you are tapering, or bored.  There is always “that run” during a training cycle that you didn’t think you’d make it through, but you did.  Remember that one, versus the ones that you didn’t feel great during.

At the Race:

Stay Distracted:

To minimize prerace jitters, stay distracted. For some people that is listening to music, for others (like me), that is talking nonstop until the race starts.  If we meet at a race, know that I am 100% cool with chatting up until the gun goes off.  Stay distracted and relaxed on race morning. It helps to alleviate pre-race anxiety and pre-race jitters.

Get Away from the Start Line:

During shorter races such as a 5k, this is easy because I need to warm up.  I don’t warm up before half marathons (my top 5 half marathons have had zero warmup…maybe some walking).  Getting away from the start line allows you to stay relaxed and not think about running the race as much.

Remember This:

Races are typically the morning of your day.  It’s not more than a few hours of your morning, and when you cross the finish line, you move on.  You are still the same person whether you PR or PW (personal worst).  Your family, friends, and everyone else still loves you.  Sometimes we get too wrapped up in the sport that we don’t think about the big picture.  Before every race, I just think: good or bad, whatever happens…happens and there is no need to stress about it.

You are still the same person whether you PR or PW (personal worst).  Your family, friends, and everyone else still loves you and don’t care about your finish time.  Sometimes we get too wrapped up in the sport that we don’t think about the big picture.  Before every race, I just think: good or bad, whatever happens…happens and there is no need to stress about it.

Racing is supposed to be exciting and fun.  You should look forward to it, not dread it.  If you dread it, there is no point in doing it right?

Related Posts:

Who Cares Where You Run?

Care Free Training

How to Bounce Back from a Bad Race

Questions for you:

Do you get race day anxiety? 

How do you beat race day (or any day) nerves?

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5 responses

  1. This is a really good post. There are so many runners out there that should read it. I’ve struggled with race day nerves many times and I think your advice is super helpful.

  2. I think racing a lot helps with this. Every time I stop racing for awhile to work on a “goal race”, I have trouble with nerves and end up doing worse at that “goal race”. Most of my best races are ones where I just kind of jumped in without a lot of expectations anyway.

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