Looking for ways to feel less anxious and more confident on the starting line? We all are!
Most people tend to feel nervous before a race, (even if they know they prepared themselves well for what lies ahead), and while a few “butterflies” can serve us well, too much anxiety can take the fun out of the overall race experience. Before a race, adrenaline kicks in, leading to an elevated heart rate and an elevated respiration level. For most of us, this is accompanied by a sense of squeamishness in our stomachs.
While most people dread these feelings and tolerate them as a necessary part of racing, author and running coach Matt Fitzgerald recommends we choose to interpret the “butterflies in stomach” feeling as excitement rather than anxiety, since our brain doesn’t know the difference. Certified hypnotherapist Tim Sinnett explains, “One strategy is to try to reduce that intensity of the nervous feeling, but another strategy is to cognitively reframe the feeling from that of nervousness to excitement. The visceral feeling is natural – it’s our interpretation of it that causes anxiety. ”
Check out this three-step process for feeling like a superhero on the start line…
1) Cognitively reframe feelings of nervousness to that of excitement (as described above)
2) Do a power pose -According to social psychologist Amy Cuddy, “Body language affects how others see us, but it may also affect how we see ourselves.” I think this theory has merit, because in my experience, standing tall on the start line in a “Wonder Woman pose” with my arms on hips, chest open, shoulders relaxed, helps me feel confident, empowered, and ready to roll.
3) Wear something that makes you feel confident -When I do road races, I like to dress up in a superhero costume (e.g. Batgirl or Wonder Woman) because it keeps me relaxed and having fun yet also makes me actually feel like a superhero! According to a study by Danish researchers, this is due to a theory called “enclothed cognition,” which essentially means people dressed a certain way act similarly to the way they are dressed, described in more detail here. When competing on American Ninja Warrior, I like to wear red, white, and blue, covered in stars; and during wet, muddy obstacle course races, I like to wear sleek, high-quality compression gear. From high school cross country runners wearing their hair in French braids to Olympic track star Alysia Montana wearing a yellow flower in her hair, showing up in your version of makes you look good will help you feel good and feel confident.
Why is confidence so important when it comes to racing? Confidence plays an important role in getting us to perform our best. It takes confidence to go out in a faster heat and work to stay up with a fast pack, and it takes confidence to jump on the monkey bars (without stopping to take a breather) and take a risk tackling them with a high heart rate.
So next time you race, take the time to dress in a way that makes you feel your best, stand on the start line with good posture, and greet feelings of nervousness as a sign that you’re excited and ready to rock your race! Try it and let me know how it works for you!