Are you jumping the gun?
Ever started too quickly? It’s likely we all have at some point and often only realise midway through exercise. You’re clutching your chest, praying that the stitch you’ve got will leave your exhausted body as your legs become heavier and the race seems to get longer. But why? Adrenaline. It’s the hormone released throughout the body during exercise which has both positive and negative effects. The sympathetic nervous system controls the release of adrenaline into the body which initiates the ‘fight or flight’ mentality. The physical changes include increased body temperature, pupil dilation and sweating. It also increases your heart rate and blood pressure which in turn increases the oxygen flow to your muscles. Despite these sometimes less than ideal effects, adrenaline can give you the boost you desperately need. As your run, swim or cycle comes to an end and the finish line is in sight, your body might decide that today, of all days, it wants to shut down before you’ve finished. This is where adrenaline is important. Suddenly, your brain wants to give you that extra kick and you release adrenaline.
So it’s race day, you are ready. All of that gruelling training is done and you’ve eaten your entire Clif Bar stash to give you every chance of getting that PB you’ve always wanted. The gun is about to go off and your eyes narrow in, the legs slightly shaking. The effects of adrenaline being released within your body can be very useful but certainly should not be relied upon when racing.
So how can we succeed without being dependant on the extra nudge adrenaline gives us?
Physical techniques such as slow counting and deep breathing relax your muscles and help to control your heart rate. To relax your muscles pre race, make sure you complete a warm up. Of course, you will see the dragon eyed racing snakes who have been waiting on the start line since 6am, fuelled on carbs and sugary isotonic drinks. Don’t let them get to you, do your own thing!
‘Train as you play’ and stay focused on your time splits. Base this is on your training and previous experience to maintain confidence on race day. If you can practice on the race circuit prior to the event, it’ll give you a more accurate and realistic timing to set yourself. Don’t let other racers intimidate you and stick to what you’ve practised in training.
Training for the swim is slightly different to the run and cycle as you have less opportunity to check timings mid exercise. It’s important that you get used to your start pace. Repetition will teach both your brain and body to work at a specific rate, however, don’t expect this to come straight away - it takes time! You need more momentum to get started during the swim so stay aware of this as it’s unlikely you’ll be able to/should maintain the same pace throughout (if you can, we salute to you!)
When it comes to triathlons it is paramount to not put all of your energy into the swim and rely on mental strength to get you through the rest. Train each individual event as you would on race day and make sure you don’t neglect the transitions. Getting used to changeover will help you feel far more comfortable on race day and shave time off of your finish.
Remember, keep to your splits and trust your timings and push yourself to the limits.