Pre-Race Rituals: How to Pump Up and Kill Nerves

Cristina’s Five Tips to Pump You Up

1. The day before a race I always download a bunch of new songs for my iPod. I usually run with other people, so running with new songs is exciting. No judging, but I just downloaded “Jealous,” by Chromeo. A little embarrassing, but hey, whatever gets you moving. My younger sister Marta once said there is nothing more private than a running playlist. What are your favorite or most embarrassing running songs?

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2. I never run the day before a race. I love running, and I am more excited to run on race day if I didn’t run the day before.

3. Mingle at the expo. There are so many excited runners, veterans and first-timers, walking around, it’s hard not to get pumped. The excitement is definitely contagious.

4. For an awesome “go me” boost, I pull up some of my recent fast runs on my Garmin connect app to remind myself what I can do. Last week, I ran five miles averaging 7:12 after a stressful day at work. With a new playlist, thousands of other runners, proper rest and adrenaline, I know I can totally hold a fast pace. 

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5. Choose your race day outfit. You know how sometimes you just feel more confident in a social situation because you KNOW you nailed your outfit. It’s the same with running. Some outfits feel BLAH. That old race shirt that doesn’t really fit, or the shorts that are a little too short, but you wear them anyways so you don’t have to do laundry as often. Don’t wear blah clothes on race day. At the Toronto Marathon, my older sister Carmen and I decided to splurge on Lululemon long sleeve running shirts. As soon as I put it on, I felt stronger! I now rarely race without a lululemon shirt. The one time I did was in Santa Clarita, and we all know how that turned out.

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Brianna’s Five Tips to Calm Your Nerves

Learning how to alleviate anxiety on race morning, and even the night before, is tough. I always get anxious that something will go wrong, or I won’t perform as well as I had prepared for. But you have to believe that if you put in the training, the race is the reward. But hey, easier said than done. So here are my five tricks to calm nerves and quell butterflies before a race.

  1. Breathe! I take super long inhales and exhales while getting ready, standing in the corral and stretching. Try inhaling and exhaling for eight counts each. This will calm your heart rate and give your mind something to focus on other than the clock ticking down to start time. I like to imagine the air traveling up from my belly, through my chest, throat to brain and back down.
  2. Chew gum or suck on a Jolly Rancher. Also a good way to distract yourself and sometimes just crunching on something helps with stress. Plus, candy is a great, extra sugar boost to fuel your stride.
  3. Shake it out. I shake my shoulders and arms and remind my muscles to stay loose. When you are nervous, your shoulders and neck tend to tense up. Make a conscious effort to roll your shoulders down and away from your ears.
  4. I have my one calm song. It’s the song I know will transport me away from my nerves and anxiety as soon as I press play. It’s “Skinny Love,” by Bon Iver. I feel an instant sense of peace and lightness as soon as this hits my ears.
  5. Smile. Smiling intrinsically changes your mood and reminds you why you are there, at the crack of dawn, packed in with hundreds of other people at the starting line—you love to run.
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