We’ve all been there done that- the “I’m so ready to go out there and kill this race” phase and the next minute you’re shaking so much it looks like an earthquake hit the pool deck. If I could give you advice in two words what to do during the calm before the storm, it would be: embrace it. During the time that you have when you’re not so nervous, get ready for your race before the storm hits. Don’t think about becoming nervous, but rather think about the things you are doing at the moment. While you’re still calm, stay as focused as possible and be prepared for your race. A couple of things that might help:
Visualize your race
This is something that has been promoted lately, but I swear it really works. Think of yourself swimming the perfect race, smooth and long, but still fast. Also, think about yourself before the race: walking up to the blocks with confidence, looking straight at your lane, and what you’ll say to yourself before diving into the water.
Choose your pump up song
Pick something that will motivate you, but not psych you out. I don’t know about you, but I know that some people become very nervous over some songs. Better to find the fight song now instead of fidgeting with your iPod/ iPhone/ mp3 Player right before your race.
Taking deep breaths and some light stretching will extend the period of calm that you have. It’s almost like a very quick session of meditation before your race. This will definitely help you because it keeps your body relaxed. Stiffness before a race is not going to help your nerves.
When the storm hits there’s no going back. Most likely, you’re nervous because you want to do well. You’ve put in the work, you’ve put in the time, and now you just have to go through it. Remember though, the “it” is the best part of the season. “It” is the race or meet that you’ve been waiting for and training for, the fun part where your family, coaches, and whole team want to see you succeed. You are anxious because you want to know if your hard work paid off. You just can’t stand still; your legs are wobbling, your arms won’t quit wiggling, and your body just keeps bouncing. It’s okay to be nervous, but if it gets out of hand, make sure you try doing this:
The shaking may come from the nerves, but it could also be because you’re cold. Wear clothes and shoes when you walk to the blocks. You won’t stop the nervousness completely, but it’ll help with the shaking and conserve some of your energy.
Talk to your coach
I would stand right beside my swim coach if I ever got too nervous. This can really help because your coach knows how to deal with nervousness. He might say something like, “You’ve got this!” Short and simple, but that extra little bit of reassurance can sure go a long way.
Block out the cheering, forget the nerves, and just stare down the pool. Talk some confidence into your head, the rest of your body will follow. Use your mind to set the tone and believe that you’ve done everything necessary to make this race a great one. The more you believe, the further you’ll go.