Racing is back, and if you’re feeling rusty and nervous to toe the line, you are not alone. And after more than a year with very little racing due to the pandemic, riders may feel even more anxious lining up at the start.
But pre-race nerves are perfectly normal, and with a few helpful tips, can be easy to manage and even leverage to your advantage.
1) Take care of yourself in the days leading up to the race. Eating well, hydrating, and getting enough sleep help with both the physical and mental aspects of racing.
2) Ready your bike and gear in advance. Having to rush to get your things together on race day can be nerve wracking. Take care of everything you can the day before so you can focus on other things the morning of the race.
3) Warm up. Pedal out the jitters by doing a warm-up lap, spinning on a trainer, or otherwise moving your legs before the race.
4) Shift your perspective. Regard the butterflies in your stomach as your body being excited to race rather than something bad. Changing your perception of this extra adrenaline and channeling it into your race can help get you fired up and can help you feel less anxious.
5) Visualize your race. Visualization has been shown to stimulate the same parts of the brain that are used when physically performing actions. Imagine yourself riding the course exactly how you want to, which can help give you confidence because you’ve already mastered them in your mind.
6) Stop comparing. Looking around the start line and comparing yourself to the competition can only increase anxiety. Gauge your success based on your own goals, training, and performance, and try not to focus on what others are doing.
7) Breathe. Take a few minutes to focus on breathing, which will help settle your nerves and clear your head.
8) Talk to other racers. Be friendly and chat with others. It will help distract you from what’s stirring your nerves, and may help someone else settle their own anxiety. And, you might even make a new friend!
BONUS: Smile. Remember, racing is fun. Focus on doing your best and enjoying the day, and you probably will!