Q Ive been running for just over a year and have recently started entering races. The thing is that as soon as I stand on the start line, Im always overcome with nerves. I feel queasy and my legs shake, and Im sure this is affecting my race performances. Is there anything I can do to calm down?A A certain amount of pre-race nerves is natural. Its tied in with the bodys fight or flight instinct when confronted with danger. You should be able to tap into this system to psych yourself up for important races.
Nervousness is part of every runners mental pre-race preparation, although some runners handle it better than others. If youre going into every race frightened or nervous, youre correct in thinking it will be detrimental to your performance. Try these three strategies to help calm your nerves.
Training Getting in good shape will boost your confidence in your ability to perform. Knowing that you can run well will take some of the edge off your nervousness.
Experience Entering as many races as possible will get you used to the racing scene, and youll find this will help you relax. Enter local events and youll recognise the same runners time and again, and soon get to know them. Chatting to them on the line will help you stay calm. Familiarity breeds confidence.
Routine Another way to relax is to have a specific warm-up routine before every race. For example, jog a mile or two, stretch in a quiet area, pop to the loo, run a few strides, listen to some music, then go to the line. Keep a mental checklist and tick things off as you complete them. Whatever your routine, warming up the same way each time will help you relax, and also occupy your time during that final nervous hour or so before the race.
Dont relax too much, though. A certain amount of tension is essential for success. Its one way the body knows its in a race rather than a training run.Hal Higdon, RW USA Senior Writer