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5 Tips To Have a Strong, Healthy Race Day Mentality



Race days can either be the best days of your life, or the absolute worst, and the majority of that depends on your mentality. Your mindset can make or break the race, but it's not as easy as just "thinking positively". Running is not an easy sport at all, because not only is it hard on your body, it's incredibly hard on your mind. The whole time you're racing, your body is screaming at you to stop, and your brain tells you that you can't do it, but you can. It's going to be the worst thing ever in the moment, but you truly can overcome the physical and mental blocks.


Having a strong race day mentality is something that I'm working on every single meet, and I'm not perfect AT ALL, but I have improved so much since past cross country seasons. I may not be significantly faster, but my mindset is leaps and bounds healthier than ever before. Again, I'm not perfect, but I'm learning, and I want to share that with y'all today.


Because the truth is, our mindset isn't only important when we run. The perspective we choose to go into each day with can make or break ourselves and the memories we're able to make. If we let lies and negativity consume our minds, then we're going to be drowning in sadness and loneliness. But, if we choose to stand on the truth of Scripture and what God has spoken over our lives, then we're going to be infinitely more joyful and peaceful. So how do we do this?


1. Scripture, Scripture, Scripture.

If we're going to change our mindsets, then we have to start by rewiring our thoughts, and the only way to do that in a healthy and positive way is to look straight to Scripture. In the Bible we will find encouragement, strength, and truth, and we must continually renew our minds with that.


The night before I race, I'm really intentional about spending quality time reading and studying the Bible. Not only does this significantly fill me up and calm my anxious mind, it reframes my perspective on my "why" and my race. The Word of God is alive and active, and it might not change our situation, but it changes us, and that's the kind of change I need before a race.


I also write Scripture on my hand to remind me of the truth during my race. I'm starting to memorize these verses (more on that later), so I write "29:11" for Psalms 29:11 or "23" for Psalms 23, and then throughout my warmup/race/cooldown, I'm continually renewing my mind with Scripture. This truly has helped me calm down so much, and it is one of the biggest tips I can suggest.


2. Keep it in perspective.

After I graduate, I'm not going to run for any reason other than for fun. The races I run now have no meaning for anything other than this season. My times, places, or what team I'm on does not define me, change my value, or determine the influence I have on my team. In five years, these races will not matter - but the way I react to struggles and lean into the Lord when things get hard will matter, and will be evident in five years. I can either be consumed by the temporary or focused on the eternal, and only one of those will lead somewhere positive and healthy.


And when I keep things in perspective, I'm not so stressed. I don't have so much race day anxiety. I can breathe and enjoy the day (I mean, as much as you can). I can cheer on my people. I can walk away less defeated, because I know that this race does not determine anything about my value.


3. Know your "why".

It is so hard to run cross country and stay committed without having a purpose to keep you going. And it is even more important to remember your "why" on race days, because you will want to quit, give up, and walk away, but your why is what keeps you pushing through all the pain and mental blocks. I have three "whys" that carry me through the season: Jesus, Chapman (my coach; she's taking a break from coaching this season), and little me. I actually write these whys on my wrist, again, so that all throughout race day I'm reminded of what is fueling my passion for this sport and what keeps me going.


No matter what you're doing, know why you're doing it. With every activity, every to-do list, every job, have a purpose within that thing. Sometimes, my purpose is simply to glorify God the best I can - but knowing that and being intentional about that helps prevent burnout and resentment towards whatever it is I'm doing.


4. Set realistic goals.

I like having something to work towards because it keeps me focused and thoughtful about every part of my race preparation and race day. I go into every race having one or two overall goals and at least one smaller goal, and the rest of my routine surrounds that. My overall goals may look like a specific time I want to finish in and a specific way I want to influence someone else, and my smaller goal might be the paces I want to hit or a race strategy I want to try out. Setting these realistic goals makes my race a little bit more manageable and pushes me towards something.


5. TRUST.

At the very end of the day, the best thing we can do is surrender whatever we're doing to the Lord and trust that He will work it out for our good and His glory. I know I cannot get through any race day without Jesus, whether good or bad. On the good race days, it's only because He empowered me to run that way and have that mental strength. On the tough race days, Jesus is still my strength and my peace that He's refining my character in the middle of that defeat. I know that no matter what my times say or my place says or how other people interpret that information, God is good, kind, and that He loves me so very much. I know that no matter what, I can have faith that this situation is working together for His glory and my good, and that carries me through every single race day.

 

Race days can either be the best days or the worst days, and it comes down to the mentality you go into them with. It's so important that we are intentional about renewing our mind with Scripture, keeping every race in perspective, knowing our "why", setting realistic goals, and ultimately trusting in God's plan for every race. Because no matter how the race turns out, good or bad, God is still good, and He still has a purpose. I'm not perfect at having a strong race day mentality, but every single race is a new opportunity to keep learning, keep growing, and keep getting stronger.


If you're a runner, how do you go into race days with a strong, healthy mentality? If you're not a runner, how do you prepare for high-stakes days, or maybe situations that mean a lot to you? Let me know in the comments down below!

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