Too Many Nerves Can Ruin Your Performance
Nervousness before a race can be a double-edged sword. From a physiological perspective, being nervous is simply a way to describe the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, a system of nerves that respond to changes in our mood and our environment.
A slight stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system helps you focus and can signal your fight or flight response, releasing adrenaline and ultimately allowing you to perform at a higher level.
However, over stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system can result in some serious performance declines, including:
- Heart rate increases, which results in heavier breathing and an increase in perceived exertion.
- Metabolic activity increases, which can burn calories faster and mean you utilize energy less efficiently, resulting in poor performance during longer events like the marathon and half marathon.
- Cognitive ability may become over stimulated and decline, leading to a lack of focus and the ability to push yourself late in the race.
- Falling asleep may become more difficult, which can impact recovery and your immune system.
As I’ve written about before, overly nervous thoughts tend to reduce confidence and result in negative self-talk. Psychological research has demonstrated that negative thinking alone can negatively impact performance.
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