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If you’re feeling anxious about returning to racing—especially after such a long time away from the race course due to COVID—please know that you are not alone. That anxious feeling hits home for me, too, as I both approach my own races and continue supporting the athletes I coach.
For many of us, it has been a while since we have had the chance to stand at the start line ready to embark on a race, so it’s only natural (and human) to question whether we still have what it takes to get the job done. Rest assured, though, that your experiences and knowledge are still there, you just have to uncover them.
First, let’s explore what you may be feeling. I’m guessing it might be one or all of the following: nervous, scared, uncertain, overwhelmed. Perhaps you’re tapering and your body doesn’t seem to be responding the way you hoped, you have aches or your legs are feeling heavy, or perhaps you have a lack of appetite or trouble sleeping. Remember that these are all things you can get under control. Second, remember that feeling anxious is a part of the race process! For those of you who have raced before, just cast your mind back to your very first race—the chances are you were feeling these very same things, but the moment you started the race you were fine.
That said, here are a few ways to help minimize the negative effects of feeling anxious about returning to racing:
View your race as an opportunity
We often forget that racing is a privilege and that “We get to do this.” Racing is an opportunity to celebrate our health and fitness. Remember, there are others who are not able to do what we do. My coach once told me, “To race is a celebration.” No matter how it goes, be thankful to be healthy and well enough to be out there.
Preparation relaxes your mind
Many athletes feel anxious because they don’t have a plan. They have not prepared themselves for their race day. Have a plan, and if you don’t have one, develop one. Sit down and map out the 48 hours leading up to the race, as well as race day itself. Develop a timeline for each day that includes nutrition, hydration, sleep, pacing, and logistics/travel. Having a plan will help put your mind at ease and give you one less thing to worry about.
Give yourself grace
We are harder on ourselves than anyone else could ever be. Do the training, preparation, planning, and most of all, trust in the process. When we have put in the work, there is no reason to beat ourselves down. The greatest power is self-belief.
Practice daily affirmations
How much time do we spend telling ourselves negative thoughts or outcomes—and then wonder why things go downhill? Daily affirmations are powerful tools to consistently remind us of our goals, dreams, and destinations. They are also tools to help us contact with our individual superpowers.
Here are examples of affirmations I give to my athletes:
I AM MADE FOR THIS.
I AM WHO I DECIDE TO BE.
I AM PREPARED FOR THE DARKEST MOMENTS.
I AM ENOUGH (my favorite)
A quiet moment can tame the most chaotic mind and heart. This is why meditation can have such a powerful impact on triathletes feeling anxious. It will help lower your anxiety, lower your stress levels, and improve your self-awareness. I recommend 10-20 minutes of meditation daily. Apps such as Headspace and Calm are good places to start if you’re new to meditation.
Coach Morgon Latimore is an Ironman certified coach, U. S. Masters Swimming Adult Learn to Swim Instructor, U. S. Marine, and Ultra-Triathlete. Find him at MorgonLatimore.com.