How to Perfect Your Pre-Race Ritual Before Race Day
The pre-race time is particular for a lot of people. Some eat crazy meals, use specific equipment, or repeat rituals that started when they were kids. Just like a sports fan might wear lucky socks or a jersey that hasn’t been washed in a while, athletes will always stick to their pre-race behaviors because for them it may have worked.
But what does really work? Here are some of my suggestions for pre-race "rituals" that can be helpful. I would suggest you try them out and see if they do or do not do the trick for you.
Do: Figure Out Your Race Day Nutrition Plan
If perfect practice makes perfect, how can you expect to perform your best on race day if you don’t practice what you would actually do on race day? You may have this “sound and solid” nutrition plan, but if you don’t practice it, then how would you know it is the best for you? Someone else may have suggested you eat this way, but it doesn’t mean it will work for you.
I tell my athletes to begin practicing what they would eat and drink on race day at least four to six months in advance. Being able to comfortably say what you will be having the day of the race can be quite calming, especially when compared to the athlete purchasing race day nutrition at the race expo.
Do: Plan Out Your Outfit and Bike Setup Before the Race
The day of or day before your race is not the time to figure out how you will set up your bike. This causes headaches, stress, and unneeded worry going into your event. You’ve trained hard and put in the long and dedicated work, so why would you leave this part of race day up to chance and figure it out at 11:00pm when you should be in bed?
One to two months out from your race you should be planning and prepping what you will wear and how you will set up your gear. This goes for running events, cycling events, and triathlon events. Each has it’s own way to set up needed equipment. From the correct running shoes, to your tires being pumped up, as well as your personal hydration needed for a triathlon - figure out how you will be setting up your gear and practice this before race day.
Do: Have a Race Day Checklist
Make a checklist. There are hundreds of them out there already if you do a quick search on Google - and there is a reason for this. Checklists work and they force you to not forget anything. I have created a checklist on my website which is pretty in-depth and most of the time the athletes that use it won’t actually need half of the stuff on the list, but it gets them thinking about things they might need. Make a checklist and stick to it. Don’t be like me and forget a helmet on race day.
Do: Mentally Prepare
Athletes all physically prepare and understand the emotional turmoil they will go through, but how many do the psychological preparation needed for success? Olympic athletes are starting to see the benefit and are seeking qualified sports therapists to help them build the mental toughness and mindset needed for victory.
So, if Olympians are doing this, why aren’t you? While I am not an expert in mental preparation, I know that biggest tool is visualizing your race. Visualize your race. Include every small detail, down to how the water will feel when you jump in and how tightly your shoes will be when you put them on. Think about your perfect race and it will prepare you significantly on race day.
Do: Warm Up
Something I absolutely believe you need to do before race day is practice a pre-race warm-up. For my athletes, I let their first race be a smaller or less competitive race where they should can try everything and see what works and what doesn’t. The biggest reason why I say this to my athletes is because I also want them to discover their perfect warm-up so they are not figuring out what they should do on a truly meaningful race day. Practice your warm-up at a smaller race to determine if it will work for your biggest race of the year. Warming up is important and needs to be addressed prior to getting to the start line.
This is part one of the pre-race dos and don’ts. In the next installment, we’ll talk about what you should avoid doing on race day. These are all simple ideas, but can set you up for a fantastic race day regardless if you are swimming, biking, or running, or all three.
What do you do before a race that you think makes a difference? Post your thoughts to the comments below.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.