We are entering a season when many of our athletes are approaching their “A” race of the season. This can bring about many emotions, some positive and some negative. A simple look at the race website can raise our heart rates 20 beats. Emotion is a good thing, but it needs to be channeled appropriately.
Do you know how to spot the horse at the race track that is going to win before the gun goes off? It is the one who is peeing due to excitement. This horse recognizes the opportunity that is upon him and is excited to take full advantage of it. On the other hand, it is not the horse who is around the corner puking – too nervous to even get to the start line. There is a fine line between the two horses’ emotions – one is overwhelmed by emotion while the other is driven by emotion – and their race results will be vastly different due to this.
We are no different than these horses on race day. We too must channel our emotions and use them to drive us to 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 pro-active in controlling your emotion. If thinking about the race boils your emotion to unhealthy levels, then find ways to distract your brain by planning some fun activities in the days leading into the race and listening to calming music on race morning. Does being around other athletes help or hurt your level of nervousness? If others create more nerves for you, avoid being around the race / expo very much the day before – instead opting for a favorite movie inside – and plan to warm up on your own race morning.
On the other hand, finding yourself too calm going into a race can lead to low performance. Controlled nerves send a signal to our body that this really matters to us and it is time to perform. Channeling this will 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. If you find yourself under-stimulated in the days leading into the race, I encourage you to think about why you are racing and why it matters to you…at the core. Focus on this and the opportunity for achieving this at the race.
Here’s to your best race ever! For more on positive race day mindset, I encourage you to read one of my past articles here >>.