The big swim event has arrived, and weeks of training have prepared you for what will hopefully be the race of your life. Unfortunately, there’s still one more obstacle to overcome: your nerves.
Race day is an emotionally charged experience, and the waiting times can certainly turn the heat up another level.
So, what can be done to maintain control during the crucial pre-race rituals? Try these five tips for size.
Tip #1: Be Prepared For The Event
There’s no doubting the fact that you’ve put the work in both at the gym and in the pool. However, you need to remove the elements of surprise and fear. It’s hard to recreate the tension, but you can at least replicate your pre-swim routines, including the walk to the pool. Furthermore, you could get your trainer or a friend to use a starting gun or whistle. Reacting to this can be vital.
If this is going to be your first competitive event, it’s also worth attending another gala as a spectator. Once you know what to expect, the nerves will be reduced.
A couple of days before, ensure all of your equipment is ready, your FINA approved racing suit, goggles and cap are a priority, then ensure you have everything else, energizing snacks, towels, warm-up suits, your backup suit and everything else. Making sure this is all prepared and packed will be one less worry the day before race day. It's also great to plan your journey, understand what time you need to be there, what time to leave, and will there be any traffic.
Tip #2: Be Comfortable In Your Attire
The choice of swimsuit is arguably one of the biggest decisions you’ll make on race day. First and foremost, the material and style will influence performance. Meanwhile, given the long waiting times, you’ll also need to think about your comfort. If you start feeling agitated before the race, it’ll almost certainly knock you out of your stride.
Colour and aesthetic design can work wonders for your mindset and self-confidence. Give this element the attention it deserves, and you’ll be just fine. Check out our blog on whether the style of your suit actually matters, for more information on this subject.
Tip #3: Be Occupied
You’ve dedicated more than enough hours to thinking about the event. When the big day comes, though, it’s important to keep a clear mind. Putting too much thought into things will only encourage you to consider the worst. At this point, running on natural instincts and chemical memory is probably the best solution.
Fill time between races with reading or simply talking to friends and relatives. Keep your mind free without exhausting your muscles, and you’ll be fine. Lots of people enjoy listening to their pre-race playlist. Even through your warm up, you can continue to listen with a waterproof mp3. Just be sure to listen out to the race officials for any announcements.
Tip #4: Be Understanding Of The Situation
Race day is important, but it’s important to put things into perspective. This probably won’t be your last shot at success. If it goes wrong, you can always bounce back. Focusing on today’s goals is positive, but piling the pressure on will result in nervousness. Appreciate that this is just one event in your competitive swimming journey, and it should remove a great weight from your shoulders.
Besides, what’s the worst that can happen? Swimming might be important, but it’s not exactly life and death. The sooner you appreciate this, the sooner you’ll feel less stressed.
Tip #5: Be Focused On You
When entering a competition of any kind, it’s natural to compare yourself to others. Ultimately, though, your greatest opponent is you. Shut out all other swimmers from your mind, and nothing they do can influence your swim. After all, it’s not like other sports where there is an interactive battle between competitors.
It’s great to win, but you cannot control whether the next Michael Phelps is in another lane. The only thing you can control is your performance. Do this and, you’ll be the best you can be.
Ultimately, isn’t that all any swimmer can ask for?