8 Tips to Calm Race Anxiety


It's early, and you're practically buzzing. You're so uncomfortable with excitement that your skin feels like it wants to bail and go back to bed. These pre-race jitters are something everyone from the novice athlete to the seasoned veteran experiences. Uncertainty might loom, but this race is important to you. You have trained and committed to it for months, and having pre-race tension isn't necessarily a bad thing—unless it turns into the kind of anxiety that causes you to feel scattered brained or unprepared. If that is the case, try these eight tips to calm yourself down and channel it into something powerful and productive for your race. 

Ask Yourself This Question 

"What is the worst realistic thing that could happen?" Asking yourself this question is part of fear setting, an exercise created by Tim Ferriss that allows you to name your fears, define specific next steps to preventing them and help you realize what you're worried about probably isn't as scary as it may seem. If you're anxious about getting a flat tire, practice changing a one in a hurry, carry a kit for flats with you and then check your tires right before the race for tears. Focus on what could happen, then prepare for it.

A Mini Warmup

Sometimes we question our abilities right before a race. The best way to shake those fears is to do a mini warmup. For swimming, jump in the water and get 30 to 50 strong strokes in with some power. For running, go for a light half-mile jog then do four to five strides . For cycling, do 20 to 30 squats to load your quads, then stretch out your calves.

Remember Your Why

You can partially understand pre-race restlessness as undirected and scattershot emotional processing. Close your eyes for one minute and grab hold of your pre-race jitters by taking yourself back to the moment you decided to sign up for this triathlon. Go over the choices that brought you to this race: signing up for it, making a plan, scheduling workouts and training sessions—it all required determination. Bring back that sense of dedication when you open your eyes.

Jam Out With Some Music

Music is a great tool for setting a tempo. If you listen to music while you train, you may use music to help you pace. Sometimes a classic rock 'n' roll or hip hop song can get you in the mood to give it all you have for a hard training sessions. The reverse is true as well if you want to find some serenity. Make a short playlist with some of your favorite mellow songs, and play them prior to the race if you get nervous.

Go to the Bathroom

Listen, there are countless benefits of drinking coffee, but the greatest benefit is the chance of a gastrocolonic response that it might elicit. If you have any experience with going to the bathroom, which we're guessing you do, you might already be able to guess why going number two before the race can help you out.

Just Breathe

There's no better path to relaxation than to regulate your breathing into big deep breaths. Simply breathe in through your nose slowly, filling your lungs up all the way. Your body cavity will expand and your belly should rise. Hold the air in for just a moment before letting it out slowly through your mouth. As you breathe out, imagine your frayed nerves and tension leaving your body. Repeat until you're ready to dominate your race!

Avoid Stressful Environments

With thousands of participants, spectators, sponsors, support staff, DJs blaring music and MCs hyping up the event, races can be boisterous affairs. For some of us, the commotion, the lack of private space and the cacophony of sounds can be stressors that compound anxiety and nervousness. If these factors feed into your pre-race jitters, find a quieter space you can occupy. Just remember to be back to your corral by the time your wave is set to start.

Map Out a Ritual

Mapping out a ritual may seem like a trivial task, but the positive psychological effect it can have on your performance is real. A ritual is a symbolic, physical or mental behavior we perform before, during or after a meaningful event with the hopes of achieving a specific outcome. It's all about the attitude and purpose behind your ritual that makes it beneficial to your performance. Your ritual can be something as simple as doing a set of exercises before a race to praying to the "race gods" for a glorious day. Nerves and jitters can affect even the best athletes, but a ritual can help decrease their influence.

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