You may have heard of athletes (professional and recreational) with rituals like wearing a lucky shirt or clothing item (which they may or may not wash), bouncing balls the same number of times before a free throw, not shaving while on a winning streak, etc. This may seem weird to those who don’t engage in sports of any kind, but sports psychologists say these kinds of rituals help athletes focus and compete at their highest level.
According to sports psychologist Jack Llewellyn in this ABC News article, rituals are a way for athletes to tune out any “psychological noise”. And a Sport Journal article on ITU-level triathlon racing encourages athletes to come up with race-day rituals that help them prepare body and mind for the race and minimize stress and distractions.
Pre-race rituals are unique to every individual; they depend on what you need for comfort and familiarity so that some sources of uncertainty and worry can be eliminated, enabling you to concentrate on your performance.
Over time, I’ve come up with my own pre-race rituals.
- Pedicure. My mother has always told me that having dirty feet lead people to believe you’re not hygienic. So, I don’t like going out in public with grimy toenails, even more so when I’m at the swim start of a triathlon and everybody else has bare feet. And at the end of a race when I walk around in flipflops, people do look at my feet. So, pedicure!
- Simple comfort food. I can’t go wrong with cheese pizza to carboload. In fact, the less ingredients my food has, the better since my stomach won’t have to deal with digesting things that may not agree with one another.
- Clothes selection. I always plan what I’m going to wear for a race many days before, and set the clothes aside. That way, I’m sure my clothes go together well, and I don’t inadvertently use them before race day.
They may not really help me go faster, but they help keep me focused and in a positive frame of mind.
What are your pre-race rituals?