Do you ever get pre-race jitters before a race? Sometimes I do, depending on the length of the race, how I feel, and the weather conditions for the race. Over the years, I’ve learned some things that can help with managing and reducing pre-race jitters or nerves so I’ll share those in hopes that it can help you and maybe others you know. This can be very challenging before a race of marathon length or longer, even to be able to relax enough to sleep and rest the night before. Tomorrow I’m only racing a 10k so there is not a lot of pre-race nervousness. But I’m attempting to run a PR so that ratchets up the stress a little bit.
First, find a calm serene space within yourself to settle down a little and RELAX. Seek tranquility whenever you feel the stress of racing or jitters taking over your mindset. You are in control. We can control more than we think we can (although not everything is within our control either).
Second, establish an optimal pre-race ritual that works for you. For example, we might pick up our race packets the day before a race instead of the day of the race. I feel calmer seeing my racing bib before the day of the race and having a map in hand if I don’t know the course so I can review the map the day before, calculating where to surge with strength, power, and energetic vigor.
Third, imagine/visualize the entire race (even if in fast-forward for longer races like marathons, ultras) with the BEST case scenario in mind. See yourself smash your PR, capture that euphoric feeling and save it. We’re bottling that euphoria for your race. When you need it during the race, simply open the bottle.
Fourth, imagine yourself overcoming any obstacle that could occur: bad weather, windy conditions, snow, sleet, rain, fatigue. See yourself brushing them away with your arms or simply outrunning them. Or you can hurdle them with effortless ease. Can you see it?
Fifth, try to keep your adrenaline under control. A little adrenaline is ok but too much can lead to more pre-race anxiety, stress, worry, fear, nerves/jitters. Calm yourself with soft music, quiet, walking, spending time with your family or your pet. Unplug from technology and get in touch with nature! Nature will speak secrets to you that you will notice if you are listening.
Sixth, imagine you are the trailblazing pioneer breaking the course record for your race. Or winning your age group. Or surging at the finish line to beat that one person you thought you could not catch.
Seventh, create and cultivate a mindset of effortless ease. Try mindfulness meditation. Affirmations help. You CAN do it! See yourself crushing the race like an aluminum can. You CAN crush that, yes you CAN!
Eighth, don’t overdo running/exercise the day(s) before the race, remember to taper wisely and well. Maybe take a rest day the day before the race. Or run a slow-as-molasses 5k the day before with walk breaks. Try to stay off your feet as much as possible except for slow walking primarily so you have fresh, well-rested legs and body to to work with during the race. Tell yourself the day before the race when running: Slower, slower, slower.
Ninth, try slow walking and use that to slow down the tempo of your brain to a manageable, easy-going speed. This will prevent and control racing thoughts. The hyperactive brain is good in solving problems but too much activity can get us too nervous for a race and negatively affect performance. Slow down and relax. It will help.
Tenth and perhaps most importantly, fill your mind, heart, and soul with positive thoughts and positivity: great inspiring quotes that will lift you up.
If all else fails, just simply “shrink” your pre-race anxiety and stress using your imagination. Wave an imaginary magic wand and send your pre-race jitters away. Or put fear in the freezer forever!
Hopefully, these tips are helpful. What have you tried that has worked for you to manage and control pre-race jitters, anxiety, stress, and nervousness? Please let me know.
Good luck and R-E-L-A-X. You deserve it, you’ve worked hard to get to race day and the more relaxed you are, the higher performance level you will reach with effortless ease.