How to deal with pre-race nerves

Got the pre-race jitters? Don't worry, they're completely normal and incredibly common. The good news is they're also very easy to get rid of. James Witts explains how…

Triathletes stretching before swim leg of race (rear view). Credit: Getty Images

Nervous about your next race? You’re not alone! It doesn’t matter if it’s your first triathlon or your 51st, almost everyone will experience that butterfly-in-stomach feeling before a race. So what can you do?


How to allay pre-race fears

The answer is self-talk. This is an attentional strategy to dampen those pre-race nerves. All of us do this to some extent, whether it’s via a mental Tannoy or a whisper.

It’s been suggested that inner dialogue or self-talk that occurs during exercise is the competition between psychological drives and the physiological homeostatic mechanisms that put the brakes on.

You have one inner voice encouraging you to continue pedalling and another urging you to slow down or terminate the session.

The idea is that controlling your self-talk manages this dialogue. When it comes to self-talk, saying is believing.

Reduce your stress levels pre-race

Studies, including one by Nadja Walter of Leipzig University, have shown that self-talk reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can impair power output and decision making.

Just remember to keep self-talk positive so, ‘This is a challenge but I can do this’ rather than ‘I’ll never do this, how can I overcome this…?’ That has the opposite effect of positive self-talk, dents your confidence and increases nerves.

Top image: Getty Images