By Erin Stamp, Coach SR2
You are standing behind the blocks of lane 4 at Provincials. This is it… your entire summer of training boils down to one race, one opportunity, one chance to demonstrate all your hard work. So… what do you think about? How do you stay composed and set yourself up for the best opportunity for success?
When I was younger I didn’t put much thought into my racing. I went behind the blocks when I told, and I swam as fast as I could because I wanted to win. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well turns out it can be a lot harder than it sounds. The older I got, the more pressure I started to feel before racing. In fact, sometimes I would get so nervous before a race I was sick to my stomach. My mum used to tell me I had “paralysis by analysis”. Which basically means I would think so much that I psyched myself out before the race had begun.
I have come up with a list of 3 things I learned to help calm down my nerves before racing. Whether you are nervous before a practice, race, school test, or recital, these tips can be applied to a variety of situations in which you get nervous.
Breathing is scientifically proven to help reduce stress. Close your eyes, place your hand on your stomach and take slow, deep breaths through your belly. This will help lower your heart rate and sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. I find counting your breaths useful as well because it forces you to think about the counting, and centers your train of thought.
2. Create a routine
Creating a routine allows you to move through the motions of preparation with confidence. Your routine should be unique to you but should include some of the exercises used in activation to help get your body ready to race. For me, my routine included a specific number of exercises, followed by holding a “breast stroke squeeze” on the blocks for 30 seconds. Try to keep your routine relatively simple and short (~10 minutes long).
3. Recognize your thoughts
This one was very important to me but also the most difficult to do. Recognize the “bad” thoughts – the worries, doubts, etc. and let them float right on by. It is important to go into a race with confidence so as soon as you start having negative thoughts being able to pick up on that and change your frame of mind is crucial. If you are thinking “I don’t want Becky Backstroke to beat me” try changing your thoughts to something about your race plan. Perhaps run through what your coach has asked you to focus on!
This list is by no means exhaustive but if you find yourself getting overly nervous for races find what works for you. Perhaps breathing, creating a routine and recognizing your thoughts helps. Maybe listening to music, meditating, or talking to your team mates is better. At the end of the day remember one race does not define you. When you stand up behind the blocks have trust in your training, trust in your coach and appreciate the race with confidence! Best of luck this season!