After weeks of practice and hard work, no swimmer wants to struggle at a meet because they were stressed, jittery or being intimidated by a competitor. What can you do to get your nerves under control before the big meet?
We offer the following tips:
- Avoid thinking about future results – Concerning yourself with the future outcome of a race is a surefire way to perform poorly. You can only get through the race one stroke at a time. You should spend your time thinking about your technique and how you will get through the water rather than how you will feel after a victory or defeat.
- Develop a pre-race ritual - The purpose of a ritual is to keep you focused on a series of activities so that you will be distracted from other swimmers and your own stress-inducing thoughts. Some swimmers stretch, jump up and down, engage in deep breathing exercises or even listen to music loudly. You'll know your routine is working if you are unconcerned about everything else that is going on around you.
- Focus on you - The pre-race ritual can influence what you are doing physically, but you need to be mentally focused as well. If other swimmers warming up makes you nervous, consider sitting away from them or facing a different direction. Focus your thoughts on your race strategy.
Pre-race anxiety is perfectly normal and many competitive swimmers experience it. This doesn't mean, however, that jitters have to keep you from doing your best. With time and patience, your experience before a race will become less stressful and more fun.