Mentally Preparing For The Big Race
You’ve done all the training, and you know that you’re physically ready. So why do the pre-race nerves kick in? And more importantly, what can you do to control them? Mentally preparing for the big race can really help you remain calm and focused. You will be able to get over your fear and anxiety, making sure that you’re performing to the absolute best of your ability.
Focus your emotions in a positive way
If you are nervous before a race, this can really affect your breathing and heart rate. It is nerves that can cause nausea and that clammy feeling on the skin. However how about re-naming this nervousness and calling it excitement? Excitement is an extremely positive emotion, it is one that brings with it the promise of happiness. If you tell yourself that you are looking forward to your race, and the intense feeling of exhilaration that you get from running, you can turn that nervous feeling into pure enjoyment. You will boost your mental wellbeing and feel far better prepared. Another way to overcome your negative emotions before and during a race is simply to put a smile on your face. When you are smiling, your brain and body will follow, creating a feeling of happiness. You will run far better and feel more energised to do well.
Relax before bed with meditation
A successful runner is a well-rested runner. Getting a good night’s sleep the night before will help with your performance. A little meditation or yoga a few hours can work wonders. Studies have show that mindful meditation helps to relax and calm you, easing anxiety and stress. It can slow down your heart rate, and lower your blood pressure, making it easier to drop off at bedtime. You don’t have to go to a class to learn the basic skills and breathing techniques of meditation either. There are plenty of YouTube videos that can guide you through mindfulness meditation routines. There are also apps that you can use on your smartphone, such as Headspace and Buddhify - these are particularly good if you are using them with headphones. You should also limit use of electronic devices a couple of hours before sleep, as this can interfere with your body’s natural circadian rhythm.
Diet and your sleep
Do not underestimate the power of diet on your sleep cycle too. The day before a race it is a good idea to avoid stimulants, such as sugar and caffeine. Instead replace that cup of coffee with chamomile or lavender tea - natural herbs that promote relaxation and will help you to get a restful night’s sleep. Alcohol should definitely be avoided the night before a race too. Waking up sluggish, dehydrated and with a headache will invariably mean that you won’t be performing at your best.
Set yourself goals
In order to really mentally prepare yourself, you should set yourself small, achievable goals - particularly if you are are running longer distances. For instance a marathon can be very overwhelming when you consider how far 26 miles is, but if you set yourself small goals and targets for your race, it will help. For instance perhaps you want to run the mile focussing on your breathing techniques. You should also focus your thoughts on the importance of the process. Your big race isn’t about winning, or the outcome. It is all about the process and your own sense of personal achievement. Just remember, not everyone has the focus and determination to run a race, but you certainly do.
Visualise your success
A big part of mentally preparing for a race is being able to banish any negative thoughts that you might have. Small inklings of self-doubt can really niggle at your confidence, so it is important to put these aside. Instead create a scenario in your head, running the race course, and passing the finish line - achieving your own goal. Replay this scenario over again, reassuring yourself that this is the way your race will be. Remember that it is your own personal success that is important. It may be improving upon a personal best, or simply getting through your first 10K.
Recognise your optimal zone
As a runner, you will experience that sweet spot when training. This will be when your breathing levels, you settle into a good steady pace and feel really comfortable in your running style. In the weeks that lead up to the race, mentally note when this happens. Perhaps it’s twenty minutes in, or perhaps you have a particular breathing technique that helps you relax into your optimal zone. When it comes to your big race, it is important to ignore the pace of the other people running close to you, and focus your mind on reaching your optimal zone. That way you can build on your running experience from previous races and training sessions.
Consider your race day routine
Many runners always follow the same race day routine, to help psych them up, or calm the nerves in equal measure. Make sure that you consider your race day routine, especially as you don’t want to feel stressed getting to the race. Arrive with at least an hour to spare to collect your race pack, sort out your number and timing tag. You should leave plenty of time for a warm up and stretching. Many of the larger, well-organised races offer a guided warm up that you can take part in. You should also leave time to go to the toilet before the race - if there are 1,500 runners at an event, there is often a queue! Being well organised on the race day will mean that you don’t need to worry, all you have to do is focus on your performance and the finish line.