Pre-race nerves have to be in the top 10 hardest things I work to overcome.
I have been racing for a long time and I still feel like every race day is my first day on the starting line. However, over the years I’ve been able to piece together a few things that have helped me become more successful before and during my races.
I’ve decided to share some of my best routines with you guys in hopes that they can help you run a better race and overall, have a great meet day!
MUSIC: Music is super important to me, especially on long morning bus rides. I like to escape the world for a bit and just jam out to my favorite songs. It helps reduce your pre race nerves a lot and kind of get your mind off racing a little bit which I find very helpful. However, if you’re the type that feels like you'd rather be focused on your race from the moment you wake up, then I would recommend visualizing yourself running your perfect race with that favorite song in the background. That’s definitely a good way to help you get pumped up mentally and feel prepared. (Playlist recommendation: Hot Rhythmic on Spotify)
TRUSTING THE PROCESS: A lot of times I find myself in fear that I am not going to be able to achieve my goal. So if this ever starts to happen to you, know you're not alone. Take time to remind yourself of all the hard work that you’ve put in that got you this far. Think back to those fast workouts and long tempos that you put so much heart and effort into. All that hard work and mileage is what is going to help you cross that finish line.
THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL: “The weather is so bad today. I’m definitely not going to race well.” I have heard this statement at almost every race I’ve run, and I’m not going to lie, I have said that a couple of times as well. However, when you really think about it, you’re not the only one running in that crappy whether are you now? No excuses and no limitations. No matter what the weather maybe you must go out there and perform to the best of your ability. Don’t let the weather be the deciding factor between a good and bad race.
MEDITATION: Now "the line" is usually where your heart rate starts speeding up and your nerves get out of control. One thing I like to do right on the line is do a 60 sec meditation. Take about 5-10 deep breaths right before the gun goes off. It’ll help lower your heart rate and calm your nerves. This will also help you clear your mind so it is easier for you to focus on your race and how you want to get out in a good spot. For special effect, you can even take one last deep breath right when the official says “on your marks!” **Coach Stowe, added note: smile on the line**
Usually, I'll get a feeling of complete control and focus. Even if you’re a little skeptical of this, be open minded, it doesn’t hurt to try!
FOCUS: During the race is usually where a lot of runners lose themselves no matter how mentally and physically prepared they were before the race.
**Coach Stowe, added note--- the idea is to find your flow state, coming back to and staying in the present moment, keeping yourself in ACTION, when you catch yourself over-thinking, gently draw back to a physical cue point, and utilize short energizing phrases to stay engaged**
Keep your eyes on the person in front of you and try to stay on their shoulder. Another thing to think about is being in a pack. Pack running occupies your mind by focusing on staying with the person in front of you rather then lingering behind and playing "catch up" the entire time. Towards the end of my race I start to pick off people. I like to play this game with myself where I try to pass one person per lap or two (depending on how long the race is) and if I don’t get that person by the end of the lap(s), then I just have to speed up the next lap to get them. It keeps your mind occupied and by the time you've passed all the people that you can, the race is pretty much over.
When you stay competitively engaged, focusing on the task at hand, racing the best you can- the time's come!