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Those pre-race nerves can be good, but having too many can be detrimental to your performance.
Earlier this year, I had the chance to attend the Ivy League Track & Field Championships as a spectator. It had been a while since I last watched (or competed) a “Heps” championship, but the atmosphere was still as electric as I remembered.
As I stood trackside, listening to the cheers of the crowd and recognizing the agony and nervousness of championship racing on the athletes’ faces, it brought me back to my days of competing.
I remember being so nervous that I couldn’t think of anything but the race for weeks. The days before my race were spent cooped-up in a hotel, worried about every little cramp and fretting about what I ate. I felt like the fate of the world rested on my shoulders and my performance meant everything. To be honest, it wasn’t a lot of fun.
But as I stood there as a spectator, I realized that all that nervousness as an athlete was unwarranted. In my four years as a college athlete, I had a few fantastic races and I ran downright terrible at times; yet, none of that mattered now. Friends didn’t abandon me, the world didn’t end, and I actually recall those bad races with a chuckle for how poorly they went.
I wish I had this revelation then. I think I would have enjoyed racing more and even performed better without all the self-imposed pressure.
As you might imagine, I encounter the same nervousness and fears about racing from many of the athletes I coach. On one hand, I completely sympathize with their anxiety because I remember exactly what it was like to be in their shoes. However, I also have the unique perspective of being a coach and having been through the experience before.
I want you to be able to enjoy your racing (and training). More importantly, I want you to run your best. Therefore, I want to share some advice on why getting too worked up and focused on one race can actually be harmful to your performance.