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How to cope with pre-race nerves

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It might have been some time since you appeared on the start line of an event and subsequently your race anxiety is probably at an all-time high. Although it is completely normal to get nervous prior to an event, there are ways to work through that nervous energy so that it does not become debilitating on race day.

Step 1: Understand that your anxiety is normal

The first step in managing your nerves before race day is to understand that your anxiety is perfectly normal, and a small amount of nerves can actually enhance performance.

Step 2: Focus on what you can control

There are plenty of variables that are out of your control on race day, like the weather, and worrying about them will only drive you crazy. Instead, manage the things that you can control like pre-race sleep, nutrition, and hydration.

Step 3: Maintain healthy habits

During stressful times, it is easy to forget about taking care of yourself but if you can maintain healthy habits, you will be doing your body a huge favour. Eating a well-balanced diet and getting enough sleep are both essential components of anybody’s race preparation.

Step 4: Engage in stress-relieving activities

Activities that actively encourage meditation and mindfulness are a great way to relax your body and mind. Yin yoga is a great way to take some time out of your busy training schedule to focus on your breathing and clear your mind of any concerns.

Step 5: Review your training

It is normal to start doubting your fitness before a race. To combat these fears, take the time to review your months of training. Think back to the long runs you’ve completed, the lengths you’ve swam, or the miles you’ve cycled to put your mind at ease.

Step 6: Talk to someone

You are not alone in feeling anxious before race day. If you have trained with a group, chances are that your training buddies are feeling the nerves as well. Whilst over-focusing on anxiety is not likely to help, having a few brief conversations with friends will help you to feel less isolated.

Step 7: Organise your race day essentials

In the 2-3 days leading up to the race, it is important to get all your kit and nutrition together. For everything that you cannot pack yet (like your phone) make a packing list to ensure that nothing gets left behind. Getting everything in order will help ease your fears about forgetting something on race day.

Step 8: Review the course

Take a look at the racecourse online and talk to previous competitors so that you know what to expect on race day.

Step 9: Make a race day plan

Even if it is your first race and you don’t have a specific performance goal, having a race plan will help you feel like you are in control of the day. Talk to a coach or training partner about how you should approach the race and try to get a rough idea of pacing.

Step 10: Enjoy the process

It is easy to get caught up in the logistics of a race but always remember to have fun, otherwise; what is the point?

About the author: Laura Smith is an elite level athlete who has been a Sundried ambassador since 2017.

Want more advice from our ambassadors? Connect with Sundried's Personal Trainers on our app, for top tips, free workout plans and more.


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