7 R E F R AME
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.