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Strategies for managing race-day nerves and anxiety

by | Feb 6, 2023

This article was read 3294 times. Enjoy!

Strategies for managing race-day nerves and anxiety

Conquering the Mental Hurdle to Improve Performance

As an experienced endurance runner, I understand the importance of being physically prepared for a race. However, managing race-day nerves and anxiety is just as crucial to achieving optimal performance. In this article, I will share strategies for managing race-day nerves and anxiety that have been proven effective by scientific research and my personal experience.

1. Practice Visualization Techniques

Visualization is a technique that involves creating a mental image of yourself successfully completing the race. Research shows that visualization can improve performance and reduce anxiety (1). To practice visualization, find a quiet place where you can focus and imagine yourself running the race from start to finish. Try to include as much detail as possible, such as the sights, sounds, and feelings you will experience during the race.

1.1 Guided Visualization

If you find it challenging to visualize on your own, consider using guided visualization. Many apps offer guided visualization exercises that can help you focus and relax.

2. Develop a Pre-Race Routine

Developing a pre-race routine can help you feel more in control and prepared for the race. Your pre-race routine should include activities that help you relax and focus, such as stretching, meditation, or listening to music. Research shows that having a pre-race routine can improve performance and reduce anxiety (2).

3. Set Realistic Goals

Setting realistic goals can help you stay focused and motivated during the race. Research shows that setting challenging but achievable goals can improve performance and reduce anxiety (3). When setting your goals, consider factors such as your training level, the course difficulty, and your previous race times.

4. Use Positive Self-Talk

Positive self-talk involves using affirming statements to build confidence and reduce anxiety. Research shows that positive self-talk can improve performance and reduce anxiety (4). Before and during the race, repeat affirming statements to yourself, such as “I am strong and capable,” or “I am prepared for this race.”

5. Focus on the Present Moment

During the race, it’s essential to focus on the present moment and avoid getting distracted by negative thoughts or worries about the future. Research shows that mindfulness practices can help reduce anxiety and improve performance (5). To practice mindfulness, focus on your breathing or the sensation of your feet hitting the ground.

5.1 Use Mantras

Using mantras can help you stay focused and present during the race. Mantras are simple phrases that you can repeat to yourself, such as “one step at a time” or “keep pushing.”


Managing race-day nerves and anxiety is crucial to achieving optimal performance. By practicing visualization techniques, developing a pre-race routine, setting realistic goals, using positive self-talk, and focusing on the present moment, you can conquer the mental hurdle and improve your performance on race day.

Patrick Michel

Endurance Runner – Marketing Strategist

Patrick Michel is a Montreal-based endurance runner specializing in long-distance multi-stage charity ultra runs. For almost two decades, he has inspired many to engage in running, get fit and grow stronger physically and mentally. He has also written many articles about running.