Originally published on TriCoachMartin.com.
I used to get very nervous before any competition. Symptoms included constant yawning, the runs, snapping at my support crew. Nerves in of themselves don't have to be a performance inhibitor. In fact, it's proof you care about your race and the result and will help you push harder when the time comes to perform. In my experience, in every instance, nerves immediately evaporated the moment the gun went off. Having said that they are uncomfortable and I have a couple of suggestions to alleviate the unpleasant symptoms of nerves!
See A Movie
It's natural, even necessary, in the days before the race to be going over details of the race to come, and go over final preparations in your head. But you don't have to be doing it 24/7. Give yourself a mental break away from your sport. A movie is a great way to immerse yourself in an alternate reality for a couple of hours and give yourself a mental break. Also, people tend to pour over the details of their training in the last week. When really, as they say, the hay is already in the barn. You can only really overdo it leading up to an event. Go lock yourself in a dark cinema for a couple of hours and forget about it!
Put Your Feet Up
I was once at a Q & A talk with triathlon champ Katie Zafares and she was asked about recovery techniques. I think everyone in the room was expecting an elaborate answer involving compression boots, protein smoothies and ice baths but she mentioned sitting down with her legs elevated. I think some athletes get carried away with the day before activities especially at the big races with expos, pro talks and course recons. Without realizing it you can walk miles and spend hours on your feet. Energy that could be saved for the next day. Nerves can also be contagious too so it's sometimes best to quarantine yourself, at least for some of the time, away from your competitors. Plan your day before the race obligations carefully to reduce your energy expenditure, put your feet up and relax.
The swim is of course the main source of nerves and anxiety for the majority. I've always been confident in the water but I think for everyone the benefits of a swim warm-up are great. Just doing something physical to up the heart rate a bit can reduce nerves but also facing that water fear early and doing something repetitive can help calm nerves. As a bonus you can even do a nervous pee in your wetsuit.
I don't suffer from nerves anymore. I'm not sure whether it's just the force of competing so much over the years or whether I'm just less invested. I do think with experiencing lots of different race scenarios, pre-race nerves can eventually be transformed into pre-race excitement. The important thing to remember is that having nerves before a race, while sometimes unpleasant, should in no way effect your performance once the gun goes off. That in itself is one reason to feel less nervous.