When you line up for a race, what’s going through your mind?
Are you looking at it as a challenge? An opportunity to see how well you can perform?
Or do you see it as a threat, fearing failure?
For both psychological and physiological reasons, you are far better off thinking of it as a challenge and an opportunity.
Psychologically, when you view your race as a challenge, you are more calm and relaxed. When things are going right, you can reach a flow state where you perform at a higher level. If things go wrong, you can think clearly and calmly through the problem and come up with a strategy to overcome the challenges.
If you view your race as a threat and fear failure, you are more stressed. When things go right, you’re spending energy concerned about what could go wrong instead of thinking about what you can do to continue having things go right. If things go wrong, you’re more likely to panic and make bad decisions.
Physiologically, when you are gearing up for a challenge and thinking of it as an opportunity, you have a challenge response. Your cardiac output increases and your peripheral resistance decreases, meaning that you allow more blood flow to your limbs. Levels of beneficial hormones increase and stress hormones decrease.
When you are feeling a threat, stress responses takes over. Your peripheral resistance increases, lessening blood flow to the limbs. Your blood pressure increases. Your stress hormones spike and beneficial hormones drop.
So, if you go into races fearing failure and not looking at them as opportunities, try working on changing your mentality toward racing. Make a conscious effort to flip the script. It will help you run better on race day.