Why Putting on Your “Game Face” is a Bad Idea

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Ryan 6 years, 2 months ago.

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  • #12531


    I'm looking into blogging systems (or building my own) that will integrate nicely into the rest of the site. In the meantime, I might begin treating the forum as a place to do my own “blogging” and I welcome others to do so also. Maybe I'll port certain posts like this one over if/when a blogging system is in place.

    To get things going, this reminded me of something Double has said to me a few times. (Maybe the picture included helped me think of Double also…) He said race day is the easy part, the hard part is all the training that leads up to race day.

    This blog and Double are right on. In training, you're changing your ultimate potential. On race day, you're just executing a plan that you have hopefully already committed to and doing what you know you're capable of doing. Race day should be the fun part.

    So many people get very uptight about race day. I see it all the time. Heck, I used to take it to the extreme. For me, part of that was not always having a good plan for race day or not being confident in the plan I had. Part was not being sure I was capable of doing what I wanted to do or what I thought others expected of me. Part was very possibly not even really knowing what I was capable of.

    The solution for this is very dependent on the individual. Some need key workouts and tune-up races that will help them set goals that will be challenging but attainable. Some need to realize that nobody expects of them more than they are capable of. Some need to develop a race plan that they are capable of and confident in executing.

    If you're one of these people, as I once was, set a goal you know you are capable of. Then, develop your plan for attaining that goal. Then, on race day, get out there and have some fun going after it. If you feel the nerves coming, do something about it. Take a deep breath, joke around with someone, whatever fits your personality.

    This doesn't mean you're not serious and focused when the race gets heated but wasting nervous energy pre-race and even in the early stages of a race won't help.

    Any suggestions for ways to keep relaxed on race day when the nerves set in?

  • #32735


    I don't really think of putting on a “game face”, but I try to put myself into a “game mindset”. I think it is what people talk about when they refer to being in “the zone”. Though I think that I experienced it in at least some of my high school races, I first understood it while playing pick up basketball games after I left the track and cross country teams in college. There were a few occasions when I was just so fully in the moment and so fully excluding everything outside of the court, the ball, and the other players, that I could see things developing earlier and react sooner. I expect that the very best competitors in a sport are able to enter this state at will.

    When I race, I try to achieve the same by focusing only on the present — on those factors that I can control today. If I feel well prepared, I might spare some thoughts for those things that I have done that lead me to believe that I am ready, but I never want to focus on anything negative (too few miles, not enough time to warm up, etc.). Those thoughts won't help and if anything will derail your chances. I also like to visualize likely scenarios and replay scenarios from previous races that I think might apply. I find that it is helpful to imagine the discomfort that I will feel later in the race and that thinking about it ahead of time makes it easier to endure and maybe even embrace when it arrives.

    I think that achieving a good mindset can make a bigger difference than many other things that you might do on race day. I have arrived at a race with barely enough time to pin on my number and line up, and still managed to have a good race because I had accepted that I would be late during the car ride and I chose not to stress about it. I prefer to arrive with plenty of time to check in and warm up, but just because something goes wrong (missed a turn on the way to the race, forgot my lucky socks/shirt/shoes/post-race snack, etc.) does not mean that I will have a bad race.

  • #32736


    Focus/being in the zone is definitely important. To me, that's not what this blog post and what I was following up with were about. To me, it's about how seriously you take the race. Of course we take racing seriously. However, wasting energy getting yourself in the zone 1-2 hours before the gun goes off is just going to result in wasted energy and probably losing that focus by race time. Also, there's taking a race seriously and getting yourself so psyched that you psych yourself out.

    To use myself as an example, I had a particularly bad string of races when I was in college. At that time, I was convinced I had to be 100% serious. I'd arrive at a track meet, with my race not scheduled until near the end of the meet at least a few hours later, already going over my race strategy and psyching myself up. By warmup time, I'd be so psyched out I'd be uncontrollably shaking as I was lacing my spikes up. I finally broke that by bringing my headset with to track meets. I'd zone out until about 10 minutes before warmup time. I'd be in my own little world, maybe cheering teammates but not thinking about my race at all. With 10 minutes to go, I'd go through my race plan while getting ready to warm up. By the end of my warmup, I was fully focused on the task at hand without being nervous, without being anxious. I'd be ready to execute the plan but also ready to have fun while doing so.

  • #32737


    I always find that the best way to handle race nerves is by striking up a conversation pre race with the other runners.  I have met some very good friends this way.

    I really like it that you are starting a blog, Ryan.  I have been reading various running blogs this winter and have found some very interesting and informative ones and some others that I would describe more as entertainment.  One of my favorites is Mark Hadley's Maximum Performance as he presents a lot of great information and inspiration without going over my head. 

  • #32738



    Sorry for the tangent. I see what you're talking about as managing stress. For me, not focusing on negatives helps me manage stress. I feel that it is good to feel a little stress and a little on edge, but like you, I try to manage that. When I attend one of the larger races, I like to arrive early so that I am not stressed about parking, but when I have an hour or more until the race, I don't want to start thinking about the race yet. Instead, I will bring a book or audio book to distract myself until I am ready to start warming up. But, I still see what I was talking about as related. As the race draws near, focusing on the things that I can control helps me to avoid negative stress that comes from worrying about the things beyond my control. When I get to the starting line, I like to feel relaxed and peaceful inside, but poised for movement. It is a balancing act. Feeling some stress and anxiety helps you to perform better, but immersing yourself in it can overwhelm you and ruin your performance.

  • #32739


    That's what I've found. A great way to control the nerves and there's still time to focus on business at hand when it's time because most others want to do the same. The conversations can be quite jovial 5 minutes before a race but they usually settle quite quickly in that last 1-2 minutes when it's time to put your game face on.

    I'm realizing I was a little too simplistic with my first post on this thread. I think, game face or not, some people take it way too serious and get themselves psyched out. Others know how to stay loose but put on the game face when it's time to do so. Others might never put their game face on. The best aim would be to hit that middle ground. Keep loose until it's time for business, then still have fun but also focus on the task at hand.

    I've been bouncing around the idea of adding a blog to this site for years but always said I can post what I normally would in a blog right here. It doesn't seem to happen, though. So I'm going to get something going. I'm working on writing my own software right now so it can be properly integrated with the rest of the site (one login, controlled through the forums, being the main thing). The hope is that it can turn into a general public running blog, not just a personal blog by me but one where any runner who wishes will be able to do their own blogging.

    By the way, also a fan of Mark's blog. I also occasionally chat with him on Twitter. Great guy with some fascinating ideas.

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