In the pre-race timeframe, days or hours before the race, triathletes become excited and nervous as the body readies itself for competition. The key to achieving an appropriate mindset is to analyze the changes in your mood state and channel your emotions in a positive direction. Practicing this on a regular basis creates a new normal in your thought and emotional process.
Strategy to Deal with Pre-Performance Stress
Even the most experienced and accomplished triathletes get nervous. It's your interpretation of physiological changes and emotional triggers that directs your emotional response. If you experience negative thoughts and fears in the days leading up to your race or the morning of, know that you can change them. Create a new response to negative thoughts or emotions that arise. Replace them with positive, powerful messages that will flip the switch on your mindset. Visualize yourself performing well, bringing up images of when you had a good race, workout performance or goal achievement process.
Challenge the belief that emotions and mood states are simply reactions to external events. You have considerable control in this area. Simple acts such as changing your location or listening to music can help you control your response to stress triggers. Everyone has their own coping responses, whether it's calming or stimulating. The key is to find coping responses that are automated and can be consistently applied in changing circumstances.
Specific Mental Preparation Routines and Visualization
Rehearse in your mind what you are going to do during an event--what could happen during a race and how you would deal with any challenges that come up. Use imagery, a form of visualization that includes an all-sensory experience. Imagery is a powerful technique because the brain interprets the imagined scenarios very literally and can therefore positively influence your confidence and execution.
Positive self-talk, positive thinking and positive self-statements (affirmations or mantras) have a strong impact on physical performance. An affirmation such as "I have trained hard and am in great shape," or "I have prepared to the best of my ability" work by occupying our attention and then changing our belief system over time. We begin to focus our attention on events that reinforce our belief system that we are achieving our goals and dreams. Negative perceptions are then tuned out.
Importance of the Warm-Up
The warm-up can be important for both physical and a psychological preparation. By developing a regular warm up routine, you can decrease uncertainty as you direct your attention to preparing your body to meet the physical demands of the competition. The final few minutes of your warm up routine can be systematically designed to promote optimal functioning for your performance.