How to deal with pre-race nervousness
Have you ever been standing at a start line of a race and thinking “this was not a good idea” or “I’d rather be in bed now”? Have you been standing there nervous with thousands of butterflies in the stomach? Are you the one marching every 10 minutes back to the toilet before the race because all of a sudden your tummy does not contain itself?
If so, don’t worry, you are not alone. Pre-race nervousness is common amongst athletes, doesn’t matter if you are a rookie or a seasoned competitor. You can either get carried away by it or actively work on yourself to keep your nerves calm.
The best way of not being nervous at race day is: BE PREPARED!
Here are our recommendations how to be 100% prepared for a great race:
- A race is usually not the race itself but also the day(s) before at the expo, the athlete briefing, meet-up with like-minded people etc. It is too easy to get carried away and look at the other athletes and their gear or appearance. Thoughts like “damn he/she looks so fit”, “this one looks fast”, “he/she has better gear than me; mine is so low tech” can already drag us down and contribute to getting more nervous. Best is to only do the bare necessities such as pick-up your race kit, athlete brief and then stay out of the buzz of expos and other pre-race events.
- The day has come, you will be racing tomorrow. However, there have been weeks or months of preparation before race day. Use the preparation to trial your race day nutrition. Make sure, you have trained with food that you can digest and absorb easily. Don’t buy something new at the expo and then have it during race if you didn’t train with it beforehand. Click here for a possible race day nutrition plan
- Anything you will be wearing during race day like shoes or clothes or hat, you should wear during your training as well. Wearing new shoes or a new pant during the race can lead to blisters and painful chaffing which can make those miles ahead an unbearable torture.
- Have a race strategy. The best is, you inspect the race course a few days before and then start envisioning how the race can unfold for you. Have a plan and stick to it such as “I will keep a steady pace during the first half of the race and then see how I feel and push a bit more during the second half”
- Stick to your pace. Every start is hectic and people get carried away. A lot dash off way faster than they can sustain. If you keep a cool head and stick to your pace from the very beginning you will soon realize how many of these guys, that were too fast at the start you are picking up later.
- If you are racing long, be prepared to hurt. Be prepared to mentally hurt. Use your long training days to get accustomed to this feeling and find ways how to deal with it. Some people count, others sing a song, then others think of someone they love. Whatever works for you, know where to go to in your mind when the pain and tiredness kick in.
- Be early at race start and have a back-up plan when you are getting stuck in traffic or cannot find a parking place. Some races have a lot of participants. A traffic jam before a race is not unusual, leading some to be late for their race start. If you are competing in a mayor event with a lot of participants, make sure you can either walk their, bike their or go by public transport. Take enough time to get there, waking up late minute will not help you feel more rested if you have to sprint run the last 2 kilometers to the race start just to be there on time.
- A lot of races offer carbo-parties the night before the race. Whilst this is a nice idea by the organizer and a good way to get free food, many rookies misunderstand the concept. If you carbo-load the night before then you can prepare for a disaster the next day. Any dinner prior a race should be light and not too late in the evening. If you are especially sensitive with your tummy, avoid fatty foods and fibers. Some only eat pure rice or pasta without any sauces and spices to keep their guts in good mood for the next day.
- Taper wisely! Before race day, you should start reducing training volume and intensity. The idea is to be fresh and rested for the big day. Just imagine, you crush out a tempo run the day before and then wonder why your legs are like jelly during race day. Make sure that your taper is adequate to the distance of your race and start early enough. The longer the distance, the earlier you should start to taper.
- If you have followed all steps explained before and you know you have done the necessary preparation during training, then you can stand at the start line calmly and with a smile. You will have a fantastic race.
Happy training and running and Power On with Vindurance!