You have probably experienced a race where the nerves got the better of you, leaving you feeling “heavy” throughout the race. You might have also experienced a race where you did not care enough and felt under-stimulated, which also left you underperforming as well. Emotion is a good thing but needs to be channeled strategically to create optimal performance. This is not an easy thing to do – it takes practice. It starts with self-awareness – knowing where your optimal level of emotion rest and where you sit currently in relation to it. Next, it requires you to be proactive in controlling your emotions.
If you are someone that tends to be a nervous wreck on race day, you need to identify what triggers emotion for you. Do you feel more nervous looking at the race website, being around other athletes, being at the race venue, or simply thinking about the race at all. If so, I encourage you to get your mind off the race in the days before: avoid the race venue and other athletes and instead spend some time with friends, read a book, watch a movie at home, and plan to do your warm up alone on race morning. On the other hand, if you are someone who finds themselves under-stimulated on race day, then you might find it helpful to be around other athletes and the race venue as well as thinking through every aspect of the race.
Regardless of what type of person you are, I encourage you to spend some time in the days before the race thinking about why this sport matters for you deep down at the core. If you are someone who is under-stimulated on race day, this hopefully will help you focus your mind on why it matters to you and give you a reason to care on race day. If you usually over-stimulated on race day, hopefully this will put the race into perspective and not place unhealthy importance on it.
Ultimately, our goal is to channel our energy to create optimal performance, or what many refer to as “flow.” Flow is an optimal state where you can fully focus on the job at hand, largely driven by optimal emotion. By focusing on the items below, you can set yourself up for your best performance to date. Here’s to an amazing race!