Race morning can be stressful as you shuffle into the transition area, hunt for a small patch of personal space to set up, locate body markers and port-a-potties—all while hundreds of other athletes are running around too.
At the start line you look around and suddenly everyone seems fitter and more confident than you. Before you know it, full-scale fretting begins, the doubts start to mount and anxiety levels rise.
Take control and follow the three-breath rule to end this race-day madness and quiet your mind.
What's the Secret to Three Breaths?
Thomas Crum describes the effectiveness of using three breaths in his book Three Deep Breaths. These breaths help you find calm, be in the present, and dial down your relentless inner critic. You can also use these breaths as a chance to appreciate all the work you've done, affirm that you're here by choice, and set yourself up to have a more positive experience.
Make the Three-Breath Shift
On race morning, shut down that negative mental rant in your head and shift your thoughts to a positive, self-supportive direction. The reason is simple: negative thoughts create negative emotions, which narrow your actions down to a fight, flight or freeze response.
Positive thoughts on the other hand create positive emotions. These feelings allow you to be present and optimistic, both of which precede success no matter how you define it.
Here's my variation of Crum's scientifically based breathing technique for triathletes.
Breath 1: Take a deep, relaxing breath and put a smile on your face while you do it. This deep breath is the place all high performers operate from because it will calm you and bring you into the present moment. The smile will also drive out the unproductive, bad hormone-releasing thoughts.
Breath 2: No one has ever accidentally done a triathlon, so take your second deep, relaxing breath and remind yourself that you chose to be here. Your participation in this race is strictly voluntary and you have control over how you'll tackle it. Acknowledge this fact to set yourself up for the best day possible. It really is one of the few times in life when you can own everything you choose to do for the next several hours. Take delight in the control.
Breath 3: Take a third deep, relaxing breath and show yourself some compassion. Shift your thoughts away from what you didn't accomplish during training and remind yourself of all the hard work that got you to the start line. Focus on how much you've grown and what it means to be among the select few willing and able to complete the work necessary to compete in a triathlon.
Get ready for your next race with triathlon tips and advice.