Always get the jitters before an event? Sports psychologist Victor Thompson explains five ways to turn race day nerves into positive energy for performance.
Think: nerves are normal
“Race day nerves are very common for runners,” says sports psychologist Victor Thompson. “I think it’s important to expect them and to see them as normal and something that will happen to most runners on the morning of a race. Think that you're ready to give it a go and nerves are normal so just expect them and think about how you're going to give it your best shot on the day.”
Avoid added stress
If you’re already nervous, potential stress from hunting out your missing left shoe or your lucky running T-shirt will send your cortisol levels sky high. Prevent escalating blood pressure by getting organised in the lead up to the race. “Always prepare your kit and anything you’ll need for the day a few days before, and not just on the morning of the event,” says Victor.
Remember the training you've put in
“A few days before or the night before the race prepare for nerves by thinking about your training and all the preparation you’ve done. Even if your preparation hasn’t quite been ideal, remind yourself that you’re prepared for the event,” Victor says.
Manage the demons
Most of us have doubts and demons ahead of a race but let the negative thoughts run riot and they could scupper your performance. “Negative thoughts are quite common in the lead up to an event,” says Victor. “To manage them it helps to remind yourself why you’re doing a race, what keeps you positive and just how good you’ll feel when you cross the finish line.”
Visualise you storming the finish
“Visualisation helps you to practise things in your mind. It makes you think about how good you want to be, how you will have a good event and how you’ll create the conditions for that to happen – whether that’s your warm up, your pre-race breakfast or your pacing, for example,” Victor explains. “You can play your thoughts like a movie in your mind and it can be really helpful. Visualisation also helps you to problem-solve before you’re in the event: think about the challenges you might encounter: what will you do if you go through a rough period during the race? What will you do if you start feeling a bit of fatigue? What if people pass you? By practising visualisation you’ll feel more confident and less anxious before the race.”
With thanks to sports pychologist Victor Thompson for his help with this blog post. Find out more about Victor at www.sportspsychologist.com.