Training Tessa Virtue’s five gold medal tips for conquering race day nerves

Tessa Virtue’s five gold medal tips for conquering race day nerves


It’s race week for our group in Toronto and, for many of the runners, it will be the first race they’ve done. We’ve spent the week focusing on reducing our mileage (tapering), eating well and trying to get some rest. Still, it’s very difficult to handle the butterflies and sometimes it’s impossible to advise runners to relax, watch 22 Jump Street, listen to Bahamas and have fun. Trust me: you can not get faster during race week. All you can do is get hurt. So try and take it easy, pick out your race gear and figure out how you’re getting to the event. We realize that all this can be stressful. Especially if it’s your first time or you’re trying to achieve a time goal. To better get a grasp on how to handle the nerves, I turned to an old friend, Olympic skater Tessa Virtue, who earned silver in Sochi and a gold medal at the 2010 Olympic games.

Tessa Virtue[9]

Here are her five tips for alleviating performance anxiety:

1. Acknowledge that what you’re feeling is normal. “Everyone feels nervous. It’s the people who deal with those nerves that come out on top. Give yourself a break — feeling nervous is totally OK.”

2. Breathe. “A sports psychologist recently gave me some breathing music, like a metronome. It slows my breathing down and helps me to focus and calm down. There are tremendous benefits from feeling calm.”

3. Use key words. “The night before, I visualize our program — sometimes it’s perfect and sometimes it isn’t, but I run through everything that’s going to happen in my mind before the big day. For a runner, at different kilometre marks, use words — here I’ll focus on my knees; here I’ll dig deep; here I’ll relax or here I’ll push. Key words help with strategy, it focuses you.”

4. Distract yourself. “You can drive yourself crazy if you’re only thinking about the race. I used to throw up before every event, I worked myself up into such a tizzy! If you can distract yourself, throw on an episode of Suits or read a book, remember that there’s life outside of running — it helps.”

5. Remind yourself of your preparation. “If you prepared, if you trained, if you practiced, then trust yourself. All that training is actually harder than just one race day. Believe in the hard work you’ve accomplished, and have faith that you will get through.”

[photo by Myra Klarman Photography]


Honestly, if you’re racing this weekend, take everything very slow. You might run twice, say, for 25 minutes, careful to walk whenever you feel tired and to carefully step. Do not twist your ankles! The main thing we’re fighting against is injuries. Remember: you can’t make yourself faster five days from the starting line. But you can tire yourself out, slip or generally booger things up for race day. Certainly, if you’re racing on Sunday, don’t run after Friday and, whatever you do, stay home Saturday night. A glass of wine is fine. 6 glasses is not.

Finally, to everyone racing this weekend, and to the folks heading out for their first race, Godspeed. A whole new world is about to open up, enjoy it. Lastly, if you’re in Toronto, session two of our Couch to Marathon run class begins on August 28. If you’re interested, check out the details. Because no one has to run on their own.

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