Andrew Cohen-Wray is a respected elite mental performance coach. In 2016 he blew us away with his advice as a guest speaker at our marathon training event. Ahead of launching his initiative The Running Reaper, Andrew has kindly shared some of his tips for combating pre-race jitters.
Many of you have a race day looming in the not too distant future. Whether it’s a marathon or the start of the track season, the process to performing at your best on race day should be well drilled by now.
Pre-race nerves are often blamed when things go wrong and we don’t perform as well as planned. But should we blame these nerves, or blame ourselves?
What are nerves?
I always say that nervousness is like wind. You can’t draw me a picture of what wind looks like, just as you can’t draw what nervousness looks like. You can draw me the ‘effect’ of wind, such as ripples on the water or trees blowing. The same goes for nerves. You can draw me a queue of athletes waiting for the loos, or biting their nails on the start line but nerves themselves are intangible.
If you experience a negative ‘effect’ from something, the key to managing it is to understand the ‘cause’. Once you understand the cause you can do something about it, either by dealing with it right away or parking it mentally until after the event. I call this ‘Control the Controllable’.
Managing Mental Performance
If you have a cross country race and are unsure where the course goes and where the start/finish is and it’s making you nervous, can you control this? Yes, by allowing extra time before the race to walk the course so you know where things are. This will reduce the anxiety and any potential shocks, like suddenly discovering a big hill hidden at the back of the course. This is one simple way of ‘controlling’ nerves.
My tip is to write down a list of the thins that are ‘causing’ you to be nervous. Then go through each item and tick them off as something you can or can’t control. If you can’t control it, then don’t worry about it. One big factor on race day is the weather but it’s something you can’t control. If it’s wet and windy, get on with it and don’t waste energy worrying about it. Remember that it’s the same weather for all of your other competitors.
If you don’t ‘Control the Controllable’ you will allow The Running Reaper to creep in. He is the voice inside our heads that can sabotage your race if you don’t keep him under control. Keep him onside and he is the key to performing at your best and succeeding in your race.
If you’d like to learn more techniques to quieten down the noise inside your head when racing or training, come along to The Running Works on Thursday March 30th at 7:15pm. I’ll be launching The Running Reaper, a series of events designed to help you overcome your inner running demons and increase your mental performance on race day.
The event is free but by ticketed admission only. Register here.