It’s not enough to simply physically grow stronger and feel more capable the morning before a big race you’ve been preparing for — your mindset needs to be there too (where it can work in your advantage, not set you up for failure).
Even if you’ve been hitting your training sessions regularly and giving each one your physical all, if that mindset trips you up, you might unintentionally sabotage your performance. For example, you might start to doubt yourself, or get those nerves in your stomach. You might start to feel inadequate, or feel like you are not as accomplished and ready as you actually are — and likely know you are!
There are so many ways that your mindset can interfere with your ability to just flow and enjoy your race, as well as get the best results possible at the end of the day. Here are some common mishaps to avoid for greater success, along with how to better shape that negative mindset into one that’s full of positive reinforcement and confidence.
1. You Only Focus On Performance
“Many people get too caught up in their potential performance for the race, and forget to have fun in the process,” Kat Wiersum, trainer and instructor at Studio Three and Amplified Pilates Center in Chicago, said.
Visualize yourself smiling as you race, or think of all those feel-good reasons as to why you train in the first place.
“This will help you let go of potential anxiety and be more in the moment — all good things when it actually does come to performance,” she said.
2. You Let Others Get In Your Head
“You are there for you, you signed up for you, and nobody else,” Wiersum said.
That means that no other opinion should define how you choose to run the race and what goals you set for yourself on that specific day.
“You might have signed up with friends or even be a part of an overall team, but at the end of the day, only you will affect your performance when it really comes down to it,” she said. “Don’t worry about the fancy shoes the other person is wearing or whether or not that girl knows your friend and is judging you or giving you a look — trust me, she’s not."
Just tune out the others in the crowd — or in your life — prior to the race and focus on yourself and the moment.
3. You Have Game Day Rituals, OR You Do Something Completely Different
Wearing or using anything new is a big no-no, as is doing any other special prep, such as eating a different kind of food or having a large crowd of supporters around you to relish in this exciting moment and those pre-race jitters.
You want to stick with what you’ve been doing before training sessions and be consistent — no change to make it special, as it can mess with your mindset and backfire, Wiersum explained.
“Stick to your tried and true options and consider doing a training dress rehearsal prior to the event, by trying to mimic the exact routine you will be using on race day, or as close to it as you can get,” Wiersum said.
The same goes with having game day rituals and hyping it up too much where you might psych yourself out.
“If you’re a former athlete, you may have had specific rituals before races or competitions in the past, and while these superstitions can help people feel a little luckier, obsessing over them can actually have the opposite effect,” Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, said. “Still, if you don’t have your lucky socks, just prioritize having a familiar pre-race meal so you don’t have any digestive surprises along the way."
4. You’re Stressed That You Didn’t Train Enough
Chances are, you did! So don’t overthink it. (And you can’t change it now anyway.)
“There is no use stressing over what you could have done differently, and no one’s training is perfect,” Jones said.
Just being on the course itself can boost endorphins that maximize your strength and endurance.
“It may help to have some extra race fuel with you if you’re concerned with the distance and intensity though,” Jones said.
5. Your Plans Aren’t Sorted Out
It’s safe to say that when logistics are not carefully planned, stress skyrockets. Pair that with the intensity of a race, and you’ll likely feel more stressed than you would on a typical morning when you’re feeling rushed or unsure of your exact plans.
For example, you want to have all of these factors figured out: timing for when to wake up and leave home, transportation, meal prep of breakfast and snacks, and even having your race day apparel and gear all set and packed the night before so it’s hassle-free in the morning.
“Much like the previous tip, make sure you’re prepared when it comes to race day, as the last thing you want to be doing is scrambling to find parking, feeling unsure as to where the entrance is, missing your bib, and anything else that could be stressful,” Wiersum said. “You trained hard for, prepared for, and got excited for this race, so don’t let something silly throw you off."
Agreed — keep that mindset worry-free and right at ease, and get ready to crush your race.