For any athlete, the day of competition can be unnerving. But for triathletes, race day can present a unique set of challenges because competitors must be mindful of several important factors that can affect their performance.
Three important race-day issues include: pre-race nutrition, race-day anxiety, and performance goals and expectations. In a recent interview, Sarah Haskins, an Olympian triathlete offered advice on tackling each of these factors.
Tip No.1: Concentrate on Your Pre-Race Breakfast
Most of the races Haskins participates in are early in the day. So pre-race nutrition, and specifically breakfast, is vitally important to getting a good start to her race. "I've learned the hard way how important breakfast is."
On the day of a race, Haskins chooses to fuel up with a balance of fat, and both complex and simple carbohydrates. "My race-day breakfast typically includes toast with peanut butter, honey, and banana. If I'm racing later in the day I'll keep my meals light."
That's right. Meals. She usually has two small breakfasts and omits any hard-to-digest foods, such as vegetables. This helps her avoid any digestive issues during the race.
Tip No.2: Use Rituals to Calm Jitters
Pre-race anxiety is inevitable for most athletes. Haskins combats it by sticking to structured pre-race rituals. "I do like routine and I try to follow similar warm-up plans the day before the race. "
These routines include walking through all the transition areas of the race.
"I always make sure that I know where the swim exit is, the run exit, and the bike exit, because that can be confusing on race morning.
"I always feel calmer if I know where I'm going."
But Haskins is quick to point out that anxiety isn't always a bad thing. She explains: "It's okay to be nervous; it's adrenaline going through your body, and that's actually going to help you on race day."
To keep the jitters in check, Haskins recommends "finding a warm-up routine that you like to do; you'll naturally start to calm down."
And this warm-up routine also includes deep breathing before the race.
"Just take a few moments to do some breathing and that can slow your heart rate down and that extra oxygen in your body can help calm you."
More: VO2 Max Explained
Tip No.3: Process Over Performance
Finally, to maximize your performance potential, it's important to have feasible goals. According to Haskins, "A lot of people have performance goals and process goals. When I go to a race, my goal ultimately may be to win but I don't think: 'Okay, I gotta win.'
"Instead, I think when I go to the race: 'What do I need to do to get there?'"
She contends that a good race mindset is one where athletes focus on the process goals leading into a race "versus solely thinking about the performance goal."
With a little preparation, athletes can prepare to avoid the common pitfalls of poor nutrition, anxiety, and performance. (And hopefully that translates to a faster race time.)
More: Ease Race-Day Stress
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