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Beginner’s Luck: 5 Ways to Deal with Race Day Jitters

Race morning: It’s a combination of emotions ranging from “YES! It’s here” to “[insert your choice expletive]! It’s here!”

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Race morning is a tough place for butterflies, I get that. But there is something very special about the few moments after waking up on race day. It’s a combination of emotions ranging from “YES! It’s here” to “[insert your choice expletive]! It’s here!” Regardless of how prepared we might be, a good old-fashioned case of race-day jitters is usually lurking somewhere.

I have found that these five things have taken my nervousness from extreme to mild, and they are easy to implement.

Talk Truth

Ask yourself what is real and true about race day? The fact of the matter is that, in all truth, it is “just” a race—it’s not that big of a deal. Sure, triathlon is a life-changing experience—that’s not what I mean. I mean that if you have prepared for your race and you are ready, it’s just another day where you are doing something cool and different. By sliding the race into a real-world perspective, it takes some of the pressure off.

Truth truth: Look at all these silly people wearing black seal-suits and jumping into a cold lake. Silly triathletes.

Hug Someone

I am dead serious. Hug your family or your friends, or find a race volunteer and give them a hug. Giving someone some love on race morning really does help. If you’re not a touchy-feely type person, then hug your pet, stuffed animal, or self. Just implement the solid power of touch before the race—and I don’t mean in the water—rubbin’ ain’t necessarily racing.

Hug truth: You might make someone’s day.

Be Grateful

In moments of newness and fear, it’s difficult to be brave. I give talks where I discuss the power of bravery—but most of the time, we can’t seem to harness our inner brave. A simple way to tap into our bravery, however, is through gratitude. By approaching the situation with a sense of gratefulness, we can find our bravery.

Gratitude truth: Think of three things that you are grateful for on race morning. Perhaps it’s the lunch or dinner that is coming. Perhaps it’s the finish line. Perhaps it’s the resolution that “I will never do this crazy thing again!” Whatever floats your boat—just be grateful.

Have a MASSIVE Sense of Humor

Again, see No. 1. But triathlon is a really funny sport, y’all. We get wet, ride on a bike, and then run—for real. Maintain a sense of humor during the day, or things could get hairy. For example, when you run the wrong way, experience a LST (low-speed tipover) in front of the crowd, or fall on your face coming out of transition—all of these things have happened to me, and I surivived. But learning to laugh about the moment and keep going? That’s the true mark of a triathlete.

Humor Truth: Every seasoned triathlete I have ever met has a sense of humor and a never-ending resilience. Laugh a little, and see your time in the sport last for a long time.

Appreciate Your Body

Most of all, but sometimes the most difficult, appreciate your body for what it can do. No matter what size, shape or place in life—you are doing something incredibly life-affirming and brave. Keep going, and enjoy your hard work.

Body Truth: You rock.

More Beginner’s Luck

Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. You can download a free copy of the book here. She is the host of the new iTunes podcast, “The Same 24 Hours,” a show which interviews interesting people who make the best of the 24 hours in each day. Meredith also works with Dina Griffin, RD, in a Metabolic Efficiency Training nutrition program called “Optimal Thrive.” Meredith writes about all the things at MeredithAtwood.com