August 30, 2020

Race and Adventure Prep 102: Get Your Head In The Game


A fundamental aspect to race and adventure preparation is what goes on between the ears. All the course knowledge and all the physical preparation in the world is great but without proper mental preparation, athletes succumb to the stresses, uncertainty and ever-changing scenarios that come up when out on long days. Visualization practices implemented in the last two weeks leading up to a race and throughout a training block can help athletes garner up self-belief and feel more comfortable and familiar with challenging situations when races and adventures get tough.

Practice Visualization: Seated or Lying Down

In a quiet place, close your eyes, take a few deep, grounding yoga breaths. First visualize yourself running in your event. Try to bring out the details of the day. How hot is it, what kind of trail are you on, are you climbing or descending, how is your stride, how do you feel? Focus on visualizing yourself running smoothly, efficiently, effortlessly. Hold that image and repeat it.

Now, reverse the scenario. Visualize yourself at a low moment during the event when you’re feeling tired, motivation is dipping and you’re unsure if you can push through. Focus on those feelings and bring out as much detail as possible. How do you feel? What is bothering you? Now, visualize yourself responding to that tough situation with a gel, a few sips of water, try to embody and really FEEL the feeling of responding to that challenge with powerful forward strides and momentum. Visualize yourself working through, pushing through that adverse moment. Repeat this process. 

Practice Visualization: During Your Runs

When out on an easy run or pushing through a tough set of intervals, you can access your mind’s eye and dip into opportunities for visualization as well. In a similar way to the process of visualization when lying down or seated in a chair, you can bring up imagery of your race or adventure. As your workout gets tougher, visualize yourself in your mind’s eye pushing through those same feelings about your race or during your adventure. Respond to that adversity and those challenges in your mind in the same way you are during your workout. Think forward progress and positive momentum. Repeat this process. Visualize yourself as you run through the finish of that event, strong, effortless, with smooth strides. Repeat.

Build your one-person highlight reel. Think back on every time you CRUSHED a workout or BURNT IT DOWN during a long run. Set it to music. YOU ARE AN ADVENTURE SUPERBOSS.

The ultimate secret weapon? Zoë’s race-day playlist. (You’re going to want to stretch and take some electrolytes before diving in.)

Pre-Race Jitters

Tons of athletes get pre-race jitters. It’s completely normal to feel nervous, intimidated by competition, the race, and or overwhelmed before the gun goes off. We’ve found that athletes who leave the start line with that built up tension from pre-race nerves tend to report feeling higher levels of exertion, perceived effort and reduced output to input ratios. In order to combat this, part of your mental preparation continues up to the start of the race and into the race itself. 

  1. Yoga breaths at the start line: Deep Inhalation through the nose and extended exhalation out through the mouth. Repeat. Visualize yourself breathing out the nerves and tension with each exhalation. Actively relax your body, starting at the neck, down to the shoulders, arms, through the spine and lower back, into the glutes, hamstrings and down to your feet as you repeat the breaths. Gently shake things out.

  2. Focus on a mantra or affirmation: A mantra or affirmation can help you center yourself and relax into the effort. They can also help to relax you if tensions start to build. We find mantras and affirmations helpful while you’re practicing your deep, relaxing breaths at the start line, as well as during the event itself. A pre-race affirmation we like is “I am leaving all self-limiting thoughts behind,” and another for those times when you find yourself comparing yourself to other athletes at the line is “I deeply and profoundly accept myself, with all my problems and my faults.” 

  3. During the race or adventure itself, consistently pump yourself up and reaffirm to yourself that you’re doing great with positive affirmations, smiles and laughs.

What it comes down to is believing in yourself, and believing in your training. Like many things, that requires practice, and you won’t get it perfect every time. Every race, long run, workout and adventure is an opportunity to practice un-yielding self-belief, and to bump some sick beats.