This article was repurposed from Nick Symmonds' YouTube Channel
Has anyone ever told you, "Don't get nervous," before a big race or event?
I know I did early in my career. I would get so nervous before a race; I would even talk myself out of competing entirely, just to not have those feelings.
We have this mindset that nerves are a negative thing, but here is a secret that took me my entire career to figure out...
...Nerves can be a positive thing. They are something that can help you perform and something that should excite you.
Here are three quick mindset shifts to help you harness the nerves and use them to help you perform.
1. Distract Yourself
Don't allow yourself to think about a race two weeks leading into it because that energy is just going to wear you down. Teach yourself how to channel your mind into thinking about other things, watching crappy TV, reading a magazine or a book, talk to your friends, but try not to think about the race until you're about a couple of hours out; otherwise, you're going to waste that energy.
2. Treat the Race as a New Opportunity
I remember when I was in high school, and I knew I raced that afternoon, I'd get so nervous, you guys know what I'm talking about. And I would think, "How can I get out of this race?" "I bet you if I go to the nurse and I throw up, she won't make me race." Or, "If I twist my ankle in the warm-up, I won't have to run this race." Instead of looking at the race as an opportunity, I was looking at ways to get out of it.
Of course, as I got farther along in my career, I started to begin to think of them as opportunities. So second, start to think of each race as an opportunity rather than something that you almost dread because of the nerves and anxiety.
3. Embrace It and Let it Fuel You
No matter how excited you are for a race, you're going to feel nervous; you're going to feel a little bit anxious. Learn to embrace these feelings of adrenaline. As we know from science class, adrenaline is a very, very powerful drug that our body produces. If you harness that for good, it will help you do superhuman things.
As I got later on in my career, I remember that sometimes I would run a race that maybe wasn't super important to me and I couldn't get nervous for it, and I missed it. I missed feeling nervous because I knew that I wasn't getting the adrenaline coursing through my veins that I needed.
I remember standing on the starting line of the 2012 Olympic final in London; I had so many nerves; so much adrenaline, and I just thought, "This is going to be a special race. I'm going to harness this energy, and I'm going to put it to use."
I ran a full second personal best in that final to finish fifth in the world in that Olympic final.
So don't be afraid of the nerves. Embrace them and learn to use them to maximize your performance.
Run The Day