Forgot username?     |     Forgot password?

March 28, 2013

Does Nervousness Before a Race Help?

Written by Dena Evans

nervousWhat differentiates a race from a workout?  The chance to run down the middle of the road, the mile markers, the thousands of other people alongside?  Externally, perhaps.  Internally, on the other hand, a big difference maker is often adrenaline.

Races are a test – a test of fitness, a test of wills, and a test of your ability to handle the elements and the unexpected.  All of the variables, both known and unknown, coupled with the anticipated pain that may precede the finish banner, combine to generate the butterflies that turn stomachs in the day or two before the race.

On the surface, it may seem preferable not to be nervous at all – to feel calm, cool, collected, and carefree heading into a race.  Then again, the term “adrenaline rush” is familiar to many as a performance-enhancing asset.  What is going on?

Adrenaline, or epinephrine, is a hormone released in response to stress  - it increases heart rate, aids in the conversion and use of glucose from glycogen for energy, and relaxes the bronchial muscles to allow for greater respiration needs (among other effects).  Oftentimes, adrenaline is associated with the “fight or flight” response to great danger or acute stress, e.g. the mother who lifts the car off the ground to save a child, etc.

In a race situation, adrenaline can be helpful – increased release of energy, greater respiratory ability, blood flow increased through the arteries – all these things are good for performance and result in noticeable increases in strength and ability to withstand pain.

While adrenaline can be helpful, nervousness can also be debilitating if it takes over completely.  It is important to maintain a balance that allows the utilization of the positive effects of adrenaline without succumbing to the fear of the unknown.

For runners, one oft overlooked aspect is how well we manage this balance.  Develop some loose routines that can provide a road map before races.  Without being to tense and specific, having a series of repeated tasks (lay out clothing, pin on number, tie chip to shoe, set up morning coffee, etc) can help distract from the difficult aspects to come on race day.  Keep up with your log on runcoach or use a written tool to keep track of training and provide a welcome reminder of all the hard work put in – your success won’t be a fluke and your preparedness can be verified.   Familiarize yourself with the course and its topography – any tough hills are far less intimidating when expected. Practice positive self-talk in workouts so you are prepared with encouragement to yourself when the going is difficult and the pace comes less easily.

Of course, all of these strategies may not always account for the complete list of potential unknowns on race day, nor do these remove the painful physical demands very possibly required to yield the desired result.  Adrenaline, however can close that gap, and should be welcomed as a bi-product of the stress / nervousness that produced it.    Combat fear of the unknown with preparedness and facts, and celebrate the arrival of nervousness as the precursor to the adrenaline that helps make race day special.

Runcoach is a brand owned by Focus-N-Fly, Inc Copyright 2021