In Ask the Trail Sisters

I get super nervous leading up to race day…especially race morning. Do you have any tips on how a person can lower their pre-race anxiety?  Any special tricks to get rid of the nerves?



trail-sister-ashley-hunter-arnoldAshley: Pre-race jitters, when channeled effectively, are actually quite positive! But, if they send you into such a pre-race panic your performance diminishes (I totally understand this one, because I’ve been there … often!). If that’s the case, meditation might be your answer (lately this seems to me my advice for everything). In fact, countless studies reveal meditation has enormous athletic performance benefits. Take a few minutes to sit in stillness with yourself and visualize or simply focus on your breathing. Also repeating a mantra over and over during your warm up … even writing one down on your arm you can look at and come back to during the race might prove helpful.

Deserae ClarkeDes: Everyone is different in their pre-race preparation and nerves, but there’s a few things I found that help me. First, starting well in advance of race day I try to use my nervous energy for positive things like reviewing the course and thinking about race day strategy. I think back on past races that went well and what worked, and focus on being positive and confident going into the race. I plan out what I need to take in advance and review it so I don’t need to worry the night before our day of the race. And, I remind myself that everyone else is nervous too, Alberto Salazar is quoted as saying “Standing on the starting line, we’re all cowards.” Once the race starts you’ll be able to transfer that nervous energy into the drive for a great race.

Tara H: I get nervous before races, too – I think a little bit of nerves is a good thing (it means you care!), but sometimes it can be a bit much (let’s just say I am very grateful for porta-potties at race starts!). Channeling that nervous energy elsewhere in the days/week leading up to the race is great advice. It doesn’t help that you’re tapering, too, and probably feel like your body is falling apart (if you’re anything like me). Yoga is great to calm the mind, and I like to spend lots of time taking my dog for walks in the forest. As for race morning: having everything you need laid out the night before – including getting all your gear ready, packing your pack with your race nutrition, etc., takes away any anxiety about forgetting something in the morning. I don’t think the pre-race nerves will ever really go away – but I know that they stop as soon as I start running, so I always just remind myself of that: It’s just running! We do this almost every day, we’ve got this! 🙂

Lisa: I’m a weird combination of planner and fly-by-the-seat-of-me-pants-er, so this question hits home. I prepare by choosing my race gear in advance. If I’m traveling, I pack extra of everything. I make sure I’ve gone to packet pickup the night before, so that I don’t have to rush that morning. My biggest fear is the thing we aren’t supposed to talk about – trail poo. It’s my only nervous worry, so I wake up extra early to take care of business (as many times as necessary) before I head out. I try to arrive early to hang out, because I love people watching at races. I’m not there to race, so turning the event into a vacation helps. I also do better if I am alone. Trying to travel and race with my family in tow is nerve-wracking for me because I’m trying to be a mom and wife, when I should be focused on me. I guess I’d say my biggest advice is to keep it simple and keep it fun. If you’re not out for a golden ticket, then the only thing on the line is your own enjoyment. Don’t sabotage your happiness with worry.

trail-sister-sandi-nypaverSandi: Race morning I typically try to wake up and take a few deep breaths and then remember why I signed up to race in the first place. Knowing your “why” is important. I also remind myself that true failure only comes from not trying. Another thing that really helps me before a race is listening to podcasts or reading books from sports psychologists. Why not learn the techniques psychologists use with the world’s best athletes, right? It never fails that I hear some wisdom that calms my nerves. Rich Roll’s podcasts with psychologist Michael Gervais are gems, and Tina Muir has interviewed a few psychologists for her podcast as well.

Tara Warren Head Square HeadshotTara W: I have a big race in 6 days and I wish I had some tricks up my sleeves. I feel like I’m going to be taking my own medicine here as my butterflies are flapping pretty hard already! For me, it’s all about the routine.  Not superstitious type of routines, but a regular set of things I do that help me stay focused.  But also, if something changes in my routine, which usually does, I’ve got to be cool enough to know that things are still going to be okay. Whether it’s bringing your own breakfast food, favorite pillow or what not to a overnight race, or even having some “to-go” songs that can chill you out before they blow the whistle, decide whats going to work for you.  I think that anxiety and adrenaline are sometimes confused. You WANT the adrenaline, so if you’re feeling it, use it!

trail-sister-maria-dalzotMaria: I am nervous 24/7 so I totally understand how debilitating pre-race nerves can be. What helps me overcome the anxiety is realizing that no one cares how I perform and that I am putting all this pressure on myself. Everyone who loves me couldn’t care less how fast, far, first or last. I also try to run for something or someone greater than myself. Just get out there and do your best for the day, because that’s all any of us can do.


Trail Sister Katelynn WagnerKatelynn: Race day nerves effect everyone, even the top athletes. You would literally be a machine if you didn’t experience some sort of pre-race anxiety! How you react to the anxiety and “tame the beast” can make all the difference in the way your race plays out. The most effective thing to calm the nerves is simply experience. The more start lines you toe, the better you will become at dealing with the anxiety that comes with them. I find that deep, slow, “belly” breaths really help, focusing on nothing but counting the seconds of inhale and exhale. I also like to remind myself that stressing adds nothing positive to my racing experience. The hours and miles are going to pass, whether I worry about them or not. Throughout the race I know I will feel strong, I will feel weak, I will hurt, and I will probably want to quit. But I tell myself that I will push through all of it. I remind myself that I have worked hard to be here and have earned every mile. Find a positive mantra to repeat to yourself while you focus on your breath. Acknowledge to yourself that no race is perfect and you will hit lows, but your training has prepared you well, and you deserve to be in that race. You’ve got this!

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