Over the last 20 years, I have grown, I have become a little more wise, and I have learned some valuable lessons I was supposed to learn. I don’t give detailed powerpoint presentations, I simply talk to people and the energy shapes itself with each group, because, in some inexplicable way, we share the same language, but I never know what that is until I stand up there, in front of the group. They call me inspiring, and I am inspired by them. I know what it’s like to start something new, to be learning, and to feel a bit afraid of a daunting goal.
Being a bit afraid is a gift. It is like the doorbell ringing - it makes us stand up and answer a call. That allows us to be brave and courageous. We can only be brave and courageous, when facing a fear. It also means that we care about something and that feeling means we are alive.
And I as I talked last week, shedding some light and giving some skills to those who had a little anxiety about racing on the weekend, we had a chuckle, because we all know, that no matter how nervous they are on race morning, they are all going to show up at the start line, in whatever level of discomfort they have, and at the end of the race, they are all going to celebrate their bravery and strength!
They are going to show up, because they worked every week for that start line. They are going to see it through.
So all I wanted to tell them was:
Accept that feeling of fear, but don’t fear what you don’t know.
Like the lines in the now famous article turned into sung poem by Mary Schmich - Wear Sunscreen
“Don't worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as
effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that
never crossed your worried mind
the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday”
If you are a little nervous, focus on taking care of the details, the things that will calm your mind – all the things that you can control. All the little things, like what to eat the night before, what to wear, what time you will leave your house in the morning and where you will park.
Worrying about anything else (how you will feel on race day, what the weather is going to be, whether you will run or walk fast enough, should you even start?) is worry about the future, and over that, you have no control. And, those thoughts are just thoughts – you don’t have to believe them. Let’s say your thought is that you are afraid you will do a terrible job of pacing. You can’t even know if that thought is the truth. Believing it makes you anxious. Not believing it, or believing the opposite – that you will do a good job, sounds far more helpful and peaceful to me. Try it!
I can’t tell you what to believe, but I can suggest you don’t believe everything you think!
When I was racing full time, as an elite athlete, I spent the days before the race managing a lot of pre race nerves. Over time, I developed a solid and practical plan that included acceptance of the feelings for 2-3 days prior to a big competition. I spent a lot of time reassuring myself that I had done all I could do to be ready. I had done my training to the best of my ability and I had taken care of all the details. I worked a lot on trust. My training was now in the past, so I had nothing left to do but trust I had done a good job, and was ready. After that, the anxiety was merely a product of the fact that I cared, and that the race mattered. I didn’t always get it right, but I got better at this the more I practiced. By the time I reached the end of my career, I approached every start line with huge gratitude - that line was the chance to do something I absolutely loved.
As the hours count down to race start, keep breathing, keep smiling (at least inside), and rest your body. Above all, if you are feeling a bit anxious, don’t berate yourself for feeling anxious. The race matters to you, and what matter to you, is all you can control.
Run For Joy
May 4, 2018
Writing about the art of moving well and the lived experience of a life in sport.