The Hand & Stone Women’s Triathlon is just days away and, if you are like most athletes, the countdown until race day elicits a jumble of emotions, from heady excitement to abject fear.
The Hand & Stone Women’s Triathlon is just days away and, if you are like most athletes, the countdown until race day elicits a jumble of emotions, from heady excitement to abject fear. At one moment, you may find yourself feeling supremely confident, but a moment later your “I’m-just-going-to-have-fun-and-go-for-it” mindset may morph into an “I’ll-die-of embarrassment-if-I’m-the-slowest-one-out-there” panic. If this captures your experience these next few days, the good news is that it is totally normal and expected. The even better news is that this treadmill of emotions doesn’t mean that any of your fears will actually be realized.
What is true is that your nervous system—note the word nervous—is likely to be working overtime until race day, reflecting the push you are making beyond your comfort zone. Below are some do’s and don’ts to help you manage your nerves, enjoy the entire Women’s Triathlon weekend experience, and focus your thoughts on doing your personal best on race day.
- Do remind yourself that your merry-go-round of feelings is—believe it or not—part of what you’ve trained for. Almost everyone gets nervous, even the greats. Unfortunately, you really won’t know why you ever “foolishly” signed up for a thing like this until after you finish the race. Then, and only then, when the finisher’s medal is being put around your neck, will it all make complete sense.
- Don’t overcompensate for anxious and negative thoughts by propping yourself up with overly positive affirmations. In other words, it’s okay to not be fully okay. Center yourself and your emotions by having trust in your preparedness and your persistence in just getting to the start line. I want you to hold on to a quiet belief that you will succeed, even if it’s just a slow march to the finish line.
- Do find a zone inside of yourself, if you think it will be helpful, that allows you to feel and be less-than-perfect—now, and on race day as well. For those perfectionists out there, consider the 90 percent law: When athletes overly focus on feeling and giving 100 percent, they push for perfection which can paradoxically lead to more tension, and poorer performances (than if they were more content to give 90 percent). Incorporating the 90 percent law into your Women’s Triathlon mental game-plan can allow you (and your muscles) to stay more relaxed, and may also help prevent self‑defeating frustration and possible injury.
- Do have a Plan B. In my first triathlon, I made the mistake of going into it without a backup plan. Take the time now to imagine yourself making adjustments during the race, such as changing your stroke if you are tired, or slowing down your running pace because of excessive heat or tiredness. Your Plan B should also include associative thinking— that is, focusing on aspects of the race that you can control if you are feeling not-quite-right. For example, noticing where your hand lands when entering and exiting the water, observing whether you are “scraping paint off the bottom of your shoe” while biking, and checking whether your shoulders are relaxed while running. All of these suggestions are race-related actions that can get you through tough stretches. These are aspects of the competition that you can control, and get you one stroke, one revolution, and one step closer to the finish line.
- Do remember what this is all about. It is easy to lose sight of why you wanted to be a triathlete. This week and next, remind yourself to enjoy the experience; and remember that this is a friendly competition and that the only competition is really with yourself. Your sisters out there on the course are all there to help you push forward, and you should let them know you are there to support them as well. You are a community of women. A community of triathletes. Take the time to let people know you believe in them!
Mitchell Greene, Ph.D. is the sport psychologist to Delmo Sports. If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Greene at firstname.lastname@example.org or get more information on the services offered by Dr. Greene at www.greenepsych.com. All DelMoSports clients get discounted rates on individual sport psych consultation sessions with Dr. Greene.