In one of the myriad of Facebook groups I’m in, there was recently a discussion of race day anxiety and whether or not it’s a normal thing.
It is. It’s a totally normal thing.
Now, if you’re suffering from more than just race anxiety, if you find you’re anxious a lot of the time or it’s starting to affect your every day life, go see your doctor. While there is a ton of stigma against mental health drugs, that is absolutely ridiculous. We don’t judge a person for needing antibiotics or blood pressure medication, so why would we judge a person who needs an anti-anxiety medication? If science can help you feel better and help your body work better, then why not go for it.
Yes, it would be great if natural cures worked. And sometimes they do. But sometimes, the problem goes beyond what relaxation techniques and good diet can cure.
There is no shame in needing help.
Race day anxiety is a different thing, and thankfully it doesn’t tend to affect every day life. But those few days leading up to your race, man, it can get nervewracking, especially when you’re about to do your first race or you are tackling a new distance.
But there are some ways to deal with race day anxiety. Here’s what has worked for me.
First off, I like to be overly prepared. Read all of the race materials. Look at the race’s website, look at the course maps (I don’t memorize them, but some people do). If you’re local, go check out the course. Drive the bike course or ride it if you can. If you’re not local, look online for race reports. See what others have said about the race.
Oh yes, and train. Training is important.
Two nights before the race, make sure you get a good night’s sleep. Yes, I said two nights before. Because the night before the race, you may struggle to sleep, or you may have to get up early to get to the race.
The day before the race, get all your stuff together. Lay it all out. My friends like to make “flat runners” before big running races, meaning that they lay out all of their gear on a surface so that they can see that everything they need is right there. It also makes it easier to put it all on in the morning. If it’s a triathlon, lay out what you will wear in the morning and then make sure that everything you need in transition is packed in your bag.
Race morning, show up early. Don’t wait til the last minute to get there. Yes, extra sleep is nice, but I would much rather be at the race on time and not be freaking out about how I’m running late.
If you can, listen to some music before the race. This always helps me. I like to blast music in the car on the way to a triathlon, usually music that’s upbeat and that I won’t mind if it’s stuck in my head for the rest of the race. Sing along at the top of your lungs if you want. It’s even more fun with a friend.
A lot of people get nervous before getting in the water at a triathlon. Deep breathing helps, but what also helps me is just jumping around and being silly. Laugh. Have fun. Chat with the people around you. Just get out of your head and remember that you’re doing something fun!
During the race, some people like to have a mantra that they run through their head. I get bored with that, so during a swim, I’m often mentally singing a song to entertain myself. Some people can just focus on the swimming. That doesn’t work so well for me. So I just sing a song. Sometimes I think about what I’m going to eat after the race. This is possibly why I’m not a faster swimmer.
These seem like silly tips that won’t work, but trust me, they do. The big thing is always to trust your training. You put in the work. You can do this.