6 Steps to Prepare Mentally For Your First 5K

Use Your Imagination

The body achieves what the mind believes. Go beyond saying you will rock that 5K to imagining it in real time. Create a scenario for the perfect race—from a smooth and easy warm-up to the gun going off at the start. Envision yourself running easily at the ideal pace and then crossing the finish line just as the clock flashes your goal time. Feel yourself having all the energy you need and more. Get into the story in your mind. Relive this daydream as often as possible. 

More: 4 Mental Tips to Boost Your Run

Set Yourself up for Success

Far in advance of the race, work out all the kinks in every known variable. From the meal plan the night before and race morning to what you will wear (down to your skivvies). Plan the details so you're not left guessing and stressing. Next, practice with the foods, clothing, shoes, socks, beverages, sunblock, etc., you will be using during the race in order to avoid last minute surprises. The fewer unknowns on race day, the better. Your mind will be free to focus on the two most important tasks: relaxing and running.

More: Race-Weekend Preparation for Runners

Check Your Inner Conversation

What you talk about, you bring about. What are you telling yourself about your running? Start a good habit by saying only what you wish to be true. Rather than beating yourself up with, "I can't do this. Running is too hard. I'll never be as fast as she is," only allow yourself positive self-talk, "I am an athlete. I am strong. I will fly through this course. I am a world-class runner." The message you let sink in will make all the difference to your success. When the negative words arise, hit the delete button and replace with your favorite mantra.

More: How Running Changed My Life

Calm the nerves. It's finally here, the BIG day. Even elite athletes get jittery before a race. It's normal to feel uneasy and excited all at once. Deep breathing calms your mind and will instantly trigger a relaxation response throughout your body. Brief stretching works in tandem. When your muscles are relaxed instead of tense, you will perform better. Go through a simple warm-up. Focus your mind on staying present, not worrying what's around the corner. All you have to do is take one step at a time, and before you know it you'll be able to say, "I finished my first 5K!"

More: 5 Tips to Overcome Race-Day Jitters

Get ready, stay strong and most of all enjoy the experience. Before you know it, you'll have a collection of bib numbers, T-shirts and medals, each a reminder of your insane courage.

More: 9 Essential 5K Race-Day Tips for Beginners

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