Are you one of those athletes who never seem to be able to race faster than you go mid-season in training?
Perhaps you’re the opposite, and you can only go fast under pressure.
Regardless, there are some key principles that can enhance your ability to perform on race day, that if done well, can help you perform better than you ever had before.
1.Develop A Routine
This principle comes in at number one, because it is a fundamental element of all elite athlete’s performance routine. In itself, developing a routine IS the most important part of the routine. Over time, you should come to know what works and what doesn’t, and along the way you may have developed some superstitions and practices that have stuck.
This isn’t stupid. This can be vitally important.
Although the actions themselves are usually arbitrary, they act as a mental trigger to perform. Almost like flicking a switch, they let your body know that it’s go time.
My routine couldn’t possibly be described in this post as it is so unnecessarily complex, but I will summarise. It starts three weeks out, at the same time my taper does. I plan out the days I will practice speed, the massages, the different sessions to the hour. Three weeks out I know exactly when my flight is, how much time I will have at the destination, and basically everything and anything there is to know about the competition.
When it comes to race day, my stretching and warm up is timed to the minute from when I wake up. I have a pre-race routine that involves specific songs, slapping in a certain fashion, and a mantra that goes through my head. It is all designed so I don’t waste energy, and at the peak of the process, my body is ready to go.
2. Promote Healthy Nerves
A mixture of excitement and confidence, without pressure or expectation. It is a willingness to put everything on the line to find the edge of your ability, whilst being unafraid as to what that is.
This one is probably the trickiest, and the one that no one has ever actually mastered. The thing is, if you’re too nervous before a race you will be burning excess energy which will detract from your performance, but if you’re not nervous at all, your body will not be in a state that will allow for top end speed.
What is even harder is that manipulating your body to be in the middle requires something different for each individual and is grounded predominantly in the mind. There’s no shortcut here. The best way to find this is through trial and having a clear idea in your head as to how you want to feel.
I like to think of it as a mixture of excitement and confidence, without pressure or expectation. It is a willingness to put everything on the line to find the edge of your ability, whilst being unafraid as to what that is. It sounds cliché, but find this, and you will find the speed you only dreamed about.
3. Focus on Feeling Good, But Prepare to Feel Bad
What a contradiction!
I promise this isn’t as ridiculous as it may sound…
Everything you do throughout your taper and wider preparation should be to make your body feel good. Good being a combination of fast, rested, and physically looking good too!
Feeling good extends to your mind too. Performance requires an absence of stress, so reducing stressors in your mind is just as important as physical stress on your body. For me, this comes primarily from over planning, and ensuring that all contingencies are accounted for.
Ripped race togs? No problem. Cap breaks? I have about 10. Flight missed? Lucky we’re going a day early.
In saying this, it’s important to acknowledge that we are never going to get it 100%. Prepare to feel good, but understand it isn’t a problem if you don’t. After all, it comes down to a feeling.
Here is a session I love doing in taper to make me feel good. Enjoy!