How to calm pre-race nerves

I told my husband that I was going to write about calming pre-race nerves. He started laughing and asked, “You?”

Let’s just say that I’ve not always had a great history of being calm before a race. But when I recognised that it was becoming a problem no matter what the race or distance, I took the matter in hand and found a solution.

This guy always helps calm my nerves.
This guy always helps calm my nerves.

Last weekend I had two races lined up: the Garmin Trio Olympic Triathlon in Sirmione, Italy on Saturday and the TriOclock long distance swim on Sunday. I had my anxious moments but took control right away. The steps I need to take to feel calm and confident are still fresh in my mind…

1. Give yourself plenty of time

I hate being rushed and become quite anxious if I feel I don’t have enough time for my pre-race rituals.  I always make sure to allow enough time to get to the starting area and set myself up. If my family comes along I tell them that the event starts half an hour earlier than it really does. Shhhh, don’t tell them or the jig is up!

2. Locate the restroom

If you’re anxious you’ll probably be taking a few trips to the restroom before the race. Once you understand what causes your anxiety you’ll be able to control it better. In the meantime know where the restroom is and make sure you bring your own toilet paper. Those race restrooms are usually out!

3. Avoid trigger foods

When I get nervous my stomach and intestinal tract tend to shut down. But it’s a happier race if I avoid foods that trigger a restroom visit. My personal trigger foods are dairy and caffeine. I avoid those at least two days before the race and have been really successful with this plan. My tummy thanks me, too.

4. Give yourself some space, mental or physical

A lot of professional athletes isolate themselves an hour before the start with headphones and music. I like to give myself some space by closing my eyes and just breathing. I usually do that far from the crowd since loads of people in one place make me anxious! Find out what works for you by experimenting from race to race.

5. Breathe

Breathe in and breathe out… that usually does the trick if I repeat it twenty times in a row. Maybe it’s the purposeful pause, but it makes me feel instantly calmer and I repeat as often as needed.

6. Practice gratitude

It always calms me down to feel gratitude before the start of my races. I focus on how I feel lucky to be there, grateful to be healthy and alive, and thankful that I can participate wholly in whatever crazy event I’ve signed up for.