Runner's World South Africa - - Spring Shoe Buyer's Guide -

At the start of an Olympic event, few of the ath­letes ap­pear to be anx­ious. Con­trast this with any lo­cal 5-K, where run­ners try­ing to go sub-25.00 stress about rac­ing to­ward a fin­isher’s medal they’ll re­ceive re­gard­less of their per­for­mance. It’s not that pros are im­mune to stress – they just know how to chan­nel it ef­fec­tively. In a study of elite and non-elite swim­mers, re­searchers used a sur­vey to mea­sure stress be­fore a ma­jor race, and then asked each ath­lete if they viewed stress as ben­e­fi­cial or harm­ful. Prior to the race, both the elite and the non-elite swim­mers ex­pe­ri­enced the same in­ten­sity of cog­ni­tive and phys­i­cal stress. The dif­fer­ence was that the non-elites viewed stress as some­thing neg­a­tive to try to quiet, while the elites in­ter­preted the stress as an aid to their per­for­mance. AP­PLY IT

Re­cent re­search shows that ‘forc­ing’ your­self to calm down can be dis­ad­van­ta­geous: when you try to sup­press nerves, you’re telling your­self that some­thing’s wrong. It takes emo­tional energy to fight the anx­i­ety – energy that could be bet­ter spent on rac­ing. In­stead, know that the sen­sa­tions you feel prior to your marathon are neu­tral: if you view them in a positive light, they are more likely to have a positive ef­fect on per­for­mance.

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