You've logged the miles. You've done the work. You're at the starting line. Physically, you've done all you can do to prepare for what lies ahead.
But, are you in the right head space? Are you ready mentally for what lies ahead?
We're thrilled to have sports psychologist Dr. Michelle Cleere share some thoughts about getting into the right head space on race day. Read on for the lowdown.
You arrive at your race. Why is it that when you look around some people are jogging, some are in their own world listening to music and others, you overhear, are talking about how nervous they are?
The first two groups of people are probably preparing themselves for the marathon by getting into their zone. Do you fit into that last group?
Do you get really nervous before a marathon? Butterflies? Upset stomach? Increased heart rate? Rapid breathing? The majority of runners will most likely fit in the last group. So, I am going to give you some tips to help you find your zone.
The important thing to know about nerves is that they are going to exist. They are the body’s way of preparing us for something important. When nerves grow they turn into anxiety. Anxiety comes in two forms: cognitive (your thoughts) and physiological (heart rate, stomach ache, butterflies, etc).
Nerves (anxiety) can be either situational: you get really nervous running a race, but do not get nervous during a normal training run. Or it can be a trait: you are a generally nervous person about things in your life. These are good thing to know about yourself because you can learn how to deal with both of them.
One way to deal with either form of anxiety is by using a pre-race routine. Even if your anxiety is a trait that you are born with using a pre-race routine can help eliminate further anxiety.
How does a pre-race routine help decrease anxiety? It’s a way of implementing control over your environment. It provides a stable environment for something that might be highly unstable. It’s especially helpful for anxious runners because if you are thinking about something that’s more positive, you cannot be thinking negatively about the race. The brain is pretty high tech. But, it cannot do two things at once.
Hence, if you are in your own zone thinking positively you aren’t being distracted by negative thoughts. Routines also provide consistency and help ready an athlete to perform. Routines help you forget about race outcomes and keep you focused on the present moment. They keep you focused on the process.
Some athletes have routines the night before a race, the morning of a race, during warmup and have mental ways of coping during a race. These are all helpful but the most important are geared toward the morning of and how you cope with things during the race.
A morning routine might include: showering, eating, getting dressed, etc. What’s going to prepare you to run?
A pre-race routine might include: walking or jogging, stretching, using some positive imagery, using a mantra, taking some deep breaths, etc. How do you get yourself into an optimal race space?
Things to use during a race might include: using some imagery, talking to yourself positively, taking some deep breaths, using a mantra, refocusing on your environment, etc. What is going to get you out of your head so you can just run?
Further technique explanation:
Some final thoughts:
For more information visit Dr. Michelle’s website: drmichellecleere.com