It’s natural to get nervous before a race, but sometimes that nervousness can build into full on race day anxiety. When I first started running and racing regularly, I would get really jittery before a race. My mind would become my worst enemy and I would quickly spiral down the rabbit hole. I would suddenly feel like my body wasn’t capable of completing the distance even if I had done it many times before. I would start to second guess everything down to the sports bra I was going to run in or the meal I was going to have the night before. It would not only affect my race day performance, but made it really difficult to look forward to events that I wanted to enjoy so desperately.
Over the years and many races later I no longer get so nervous that I can’t function before a race and I now enjoy them more! Today I am sharing five tools to help you overcome race day jitters.
This may seem like a no brainer to some, but when you travel for a race this can become a little bit more difficult. After my first couple racations I realized that I needed to maintain my routine as best as I could or develop a racecation routine. For me this includes printing our any waivers, maps, or need to know information in the weeks leading up to the race, wearing my Zensah compression sleeves the night before, setting out my gear, and even reading my usual blogs and scrolling Instagram on race morning. Since this is virtually the same routine as my long runs, I now go on auto pilot come race day.
In order to minimize anxiety over stomach or GI distress, make sure you are eating the same foods in the week leading up to your race as you have for the training cycle. It’s safe to say you should also avoid foods that sometimes cause you trouble or make you feel sluggish. Just enjoy those foods after the race. There is nothing worst than feeling sick because you are nervous on top of having to worry about something you ate coming back to haunt you. You should also fuel during your race with things you have tested out numerous times over distances similar to your race.
Setting realistic goals is another big component in race day success and minimizing race day anxiety. If you’ve set an unrealistic goal then broadcast it all over social media and to your friends and family you will more than likely be putting unnecessary pressure on yourself. Reflect on your training cycle, review this particular event and then set an expectation for yourself that’s attainable. For me sometimes this is a time goal (or several time goals), but other times the goal is to finish, enjoy the experience, have fun, high five every kid I see, take lots of pictures along the way, and so on. Choosing a goal helps me stay focused so when I start to get antsy about race day. I remind myself of my goal to keep me focused.
Others find it helpful to not set a goal at all and just see how the day unfolds. If you are constantly worrying about times to the point where racing is not enjoyable, then this might be a good strategy for you. After all, we all know that goals can often change during a race.
Choosing a couple race distractions will probably depend on who you are and they will look different for everyone.
If your worrying and anxiety start during the taper period then schedule the days or weeks leading up to the race to take your mind off of your race. Schedule time to hike with friends, host a brunch and spa day, get a manicure with a family member, plan a say trip for the day of your normal long run, enjoy a night out with your spouse, start a small home project you’ve wanted to get to, etc.
If you get nervous the day before a race, then plan that out too. I really like to see a movie the day before a marathon. Not only does it take my mind off the race, but it’s great rest for the legs.
If race day morning is stressful for you, then work on improving it.
- Meet a friend that’s running the race before the start.
- Talk to someone in your corral to take your mind off the waiting time.
- Wake up 10 minutes earlier to enjoy some light reading.
- Listen to your favorite podcast or playlist on the drive to the start or in the corral.
Perfect practice makes perfect. Everything gets easier the more you do it and this is no exception. If you have a big event on your race calendar, then add some other races into your training cycle for practice. I am a big fan of using races as training runs and this is why. Read more about that here. Practicing everything will give you confidence which will in turn calm your nerves.
Don’t let race day jitters sideline the reason you decided to race in the first place! I hope these tools help you overcome your anxiety and make your goals a reality.
How do you manage or overcome race day jitters?