Overcoming nerves and anxiety on race day will propel you to greater heights
Have you ever doubted yourself, especially on race day?
“I’m not good enough.”
“I’m not prepared enough.”
“I should have done better with my training.”
“I don’t belong.”
We have all been to this dark place at some point or another. Unfortunately, more often than not, a lot of runners – even at the highest level – think or feel this way. We constantly check in to see if we actually do really belong.
Hands up if you’ve heard this one before:
Yesterday was a crappy run and most of it was my poor attitude. I feel like I’m exerting myself, but I look at the pace and see how slow I am, then I get discouraged. How do I push myself through a funk during a long run and what gets athletes into that competitive mode of pushing themselves to the limit? I guess I don’t want to just improve my pace – but I would like to see if I can push myself outside my comfort zone. Maybe that is my biggest barrier – the comfort zone.
I have been doing a bit of research into growth mindset vs fixed mindset for the classroom, but I’ll tell you what: it relates pretty closely to the distance runner psyche. Let me break down what the two are and how they relate to running.
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In a growth mindset, it’s believed that skills can be built, learned or practised. With this type of mindset, it’s understood that abilities can be developed. When you believe you can grow and get better, you might be more willing to take risks and challenge a problem.
Runners with a growth mindset will look at a tough workout or a long run as a challenge; an opportunity to reach their potential and become stronger, faster, more adept at building new skills. Within a growth mindset, a runner can see the effort put forth improves ability, we see a chance for a challenge, we are ok with a setback and we can take criticism to improve.
With a fixed mindset, comparison becomes paralyzing. This mindset often results in emotional athletes that continually compare themselves to others. This results in fearful, rigid athletes that limit their potential. Overthinking leads to inactivity. When we are faced with a difficult task or idea, we shut down and find a different path to take.
If we don’t think we have the ability to accomplish something – whether it’s to run a fast mile or complete a marathon, then we aren’t likely to even attempt it, let alone become proficient at that skill. This mindset often results in emotional athletes that continually compare themselves to others. This results in fearful, rigid athletes that limit their potential.
Choosing Growth over Fixed
A challenge can either motivate us to work harder and smarter at accomplishing the task or it can scare us and create unnecessary stress and pressure. If we believe we can do something, accomplish something, perform well at something, chances are, we’ll be willing to work hard toward that goal.
Your view of yourself can determine everything. A growth mindset will see a challenge as an opportunity, where a fixed mindset will see the challenge as an obstacle. With a growth mindset, it’s understood that our abilities can be developed. When you believe you can grow and get better, you might be more willing to take risks and challenge a problem.
Some people realize the value of challenging themselves, they want to put in the effort to learn and grow, a great example of this is The Buffett Formula. Others, however, would rather avoid the effort feeling like it doesn’t matter. A challenge can either motivate us to work harder and smarter at accomplishing the task or it can scare us and create unnecessary stress and pressure.
Growth Mindset for Runners
- Practice starting slow – in runs and in training cycles – when in doubt, especially early on, take it easy.
- Focus on what you can that will help you become a better runner.
- Be ok with setbacks – in running, there will be plenty of them.
- Take criticism from peers/coaches/experienced runners and use it to get better.
- Leave the really fast running for race day only.
- Use perceived effort to dictate training intensities. This can also be done by not relying on your GPS watch for data.
If you can convince your mind to do what you want your body to do, you have that much better of a chance of succeeding. Likewise, if your mind says “no”, your body will follow (and fail you).
By adapting and adjusting to the challenges, obstacles, criticism, and the success of others, YOU can have a growth mindset and achieve your goals.
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Marc is a USATF Track and Field & Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT O2 certified running coach. I have more than 19 years of experience running and more than 10 years of experience coaching runners. Click for more information!
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