Don't Let Performance Anxiety Kill Your Race!

Do you suffer from performance anxiety? If you are like most runners, you probably do. Instead of looking forward to an upcoming race which you have trained so well for, you are completely dreading it!!

When we experience tremendous performance anxiety, we don't feel good. We just want the whole thing to be done and over with. We have thoughts that are negative and self-defeating and we subconsciously repeat them over and over.  The race or any other external factor is not the problem. It's our own internal dialogue that creates the anxiety.


Symptoms of performance anxiety

Do you experience any of the following symptoms prior to race day:

  • Trouble sleeping the night before
  • Trouble with indigestion
  • Constant trips to the bathroom
  • Cannot relax and feel stressed
  • Cannot stop thinking about the race
  • Sudden onset of an injury that mysteriously goes away during the race
  • Second guessing your training
  • Worrying about the small stuff!

Performance Anxiety

Fear of the unknown and lack of confidence in our abilities can put us in a downward spin. Our mind runs wild with crazy thoughts, we imagine the worse possible scenario and we become tense and stressed.

We begin to doubt our ability to achieve the goal we have set for ourselves and we wonder if we have trained as well as we could have. "Oh, why did I register for this race!" 

Our mind goes on and on. It is any wonder why we have race anxiety!

However, if we can begin to notice these thoughts and realize the effect they are having on our emotions, we have already taken the first step in learning how to deal with performance anxiety.

We can use performance anxiety to our advantage

Performance anxiety, when controlled, can help us perform our best during training and on race day. It helps us focus on our goals so we stick to the plan and we prepare ourselves properly. It motivates us and helps us to feel energized and determined.

It prepares us mentally and physically to do our best. We need to feel a little anxious to perform well in a race.

On the other hand if we feel stressed and anxious and it is beginning to affect us physically, we are overdosing on the pre-race anxiety. We need to get it under control, but the good news is:  we created this, so we can also change it!

Reducing pre-race anxiety

Practice the following to reduce stress before a race:

1) Focus on the fact that you are well-trained and prepared to do this race. If you are not, you should not be running it as a race.  

2) Use positive affirmations before and during the race to remove fear and doubt and to help you feel good so you can perform your best. 

3) Have a reasonable and flexible goal in mind for the race. Conditions may not be ideal on race day and this will be reflected in your race time. A rigid goal will only add extra pressure and stress.

4) Prepare all your race items the night before. Use a checklist to reduce the number of things to worry about.

5) Develop a ritual to help you relax before a race. Listen to relaxing music or a guided meditation. Use deep breathing exercises or do yoga for runners. Try the breathing exercise in the video below to help you relax before you go to sleep or just before a race.

See It, Feel It And Believe It!

Use visualization techniques to increase your confidence. Actually see and feel yourself running the distance and finishing the race. Believe in yourself and your abilities.

Talk to your body before the race. Tell your body how it will feel and how you will deal with those feelings. Your will begin to believe in yourself and your confidence will soar! You know you got this. See it, feel it and believe it!

Use visualization images during the race to stay strong and motivated. See yourself finishing the race strong and confident. Relax and enjoy the race. It's your reward for all the time and effort you spent training. Make the event a pleasant memory.

The right amount of performance anxiety can really work to your advantage. Use it and have your best race yet.

Try this Race Visualization Exercise to ensure that your race day experience is a great one!

Also, check out these race day tips to ensure you are well prepared on race day.


You may also be interested in:

How to Relax

10 Most Powerful Affirmations for Runners

Positive Self-Talk



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Return to Running Psychology

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