Prepare for battle with a pre-race brain ‘audit.’
You’ve paid up to $700 to race—so why let your brain f@#k things up? This question from sports psychologist Dr. Simon Marshall, Ph.D., was the basis for the brain training program he developed to help athletes combat pre-race anxiety, appropriately titled “Calm the F@#k Down.”
From the stress of family drama to actual race execution, there’s a long list of issues that can leave you feeling a little crazy. You’re not, of course, but Marshall explains that you’re undergoing a temporary loss of equilibrium. The good news is with the help of external assistance using tools and skills you already have, you can return to a state of self-reliance in time to race your best.
Marshall, who is the husband and coaching partner of two-time XTERRA world champion Lesley Paterson, started with the principles of crisis intervention—or, in this case, “acute sport psychology intervention”—and came up with a program to address issues you may have leading into your biggest race.
For the six days before, Marshall will spend 15 minutes combating potential issues: distraction control for expo time, start-line visualizations, race checklists, final pep talks and more.
“In the final week before the race, your stress response metastasizes from nervous thoughts to actual physical symptoms of anxiety and fear,” Marshall says. “Strategies to help you through this need to reflect the way your brain and body are conspiring together to prepare you for what they have convinced themselves is a life and death situation. Clearly it isn’t. It’s just a triathlon, which is why we need to learn how to Calm the F*@k down.”
Negative self-talk is a huge issue with many athletes. “There’s a whole host of research in neuroscience about the role of self-talk of what it does to your body,” Marshall says. “[It’s helpful to] be able to understand what that voice is, where it’s coming from and why, and to learn how you combat that with real, tangible things about how the brain copes and how you can play tricks on it.”
Some pro athletes, including Marshall’s wife, Lesley Paterson, and Meredith Kessler, write reminders on their hands or wrists (such as “Keep Calm” or “Believe”) to have a physical, positive reminder when they get into a rough patch during a race.
$300, Braveheartcoach.com or email Simon@braveheartcoach.com.