Did you trained for months only to have a bad race day? Maybe the weather zapped your energy or your race result wasn’t what you planned for.
So while it seems like your best-laid race plans went out the window, remember this:
Good athletes have bad races.
If you’re dealing with the sting of a race that didn’t go as planned, you’ll learn specific strategies that will help you bounce back and move forward.
3 Tips on Bouncing Back from a Bad Race
Start the clock to process your race.
Give yourself a set amount of time to work through your emotions – it could be a few hours, a day, or a week.
The night I failed to win a gold medal in the Olympics for the second time was one of the most painful nights of my life.
I was heartbroken, angry, and confused.
My dream of becoming an Olympic champion was over, and I didn’t think I could find any way to snap out of it.
But as I wrestled with the pain and deluge of emotions, I made a pact with myself.
I would allow myself 48 hours to obsess over everything that had happened – and then I was going to completely move on and not look back.”
When you face your frustration, disappointment, and anger head on rather than suppressing it, you allow yourself to move forward.
But, you must set a deadline for this. Doing so strengthens your ability to stay in control and increase your mental toughness. You’ll find more information about building mental strength for running here, but these principles also apply to cyclists, swimmers, and triathletes.
Successful athletes are able to control their emotions and behavior.
They focus on what they can control and don’t allow things that are out of their control to affect them.
The hallmark of mentally tough athletes is the ability to maintain poise, concentration, and emotional control under the greatest pressure and the most challenging situations.”
– Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence, Gary Mack, David Casstevens
Bouncing back from a bad race requires you throw your thoughts away. Literally.
An Ohio State study showed that thoughts become real when you talk about or hold onto them.
Researchers discovered that the physical act of writing your thoughts on paper, then throwing the paper away, allows you mentally toss your thoughts.
This means you can increase or decrease the power of your thoughts.
So decreasing the grip of negativity associated with your race means getting it all out on paper and throwing that piece of paper away.
Now, this doesn’t work if you merely imagine throwing your thoughts away. You must convince yourself that your thoughts are really, truly gone.
If you’re not into handwriting, this exercise works digitally, too. When you’re done typing your thoughts, drag your finished document into your computer’s trash can.
Finally….review what happened.
After you’ve processed your race, find your successes and failures with an after race review.
You might uncover pieces of information that will help you adjust your training and improve your next race performance. Fill in as much detail as possible using these questions. 1
What did you do for this race? How did you prepare for race day? How much training did you do? Did you take enough rest and recovery days? What was your fueling strategy?
Why did you do that? Did you nix cross-training because you didn’t have time? Did you choose a different drink on race day?
What were your mistakes? Were you too anxious? Did you go out too fast? Incorporated too many surges?
Did you bonk? Were you unprepared for the course?
What would you change in the future? Would you have arrived to your race venue sooner? Packed different race gear?
If you’re bouncing back from a bad race, remember, bad races happen to good athletes but it shouldn’t demoralize you for long. In your post-race review, you’ll find some wins and losses-both of which will help you grow as an athlete.
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- Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, Anders Ericsson, Robert Pool ↩