Race Day Mental Preparation

I’ve talked a lot about the physical training I’ve been doing towards my half-ironman triathlon, but another equally important aspect is the mental preparation for…


Race Day Mental Preparation

I’ve talked a lot about the physical training I’ve been doing towards my half-ironman triathlon, but another equally important aspect is the mental preparation for race day. It’s often said that triathlon is a test of the mind as much as the body. Quite simply, your mindset can make or break your race day.

It’s normal to feel nervous on the start line of a big race, but some simple strategies can help to take your mind off your fears…

Mental imagery is a powerful tool for athletes. Play out the race in your mind’s eye, see yourself racing strong and achieving your full potential. Picture yourself swimming smoothly, gliding through the water. Envisage yourself strong and powerful on the bike. Imagine yourself running towards the finishing line arms outstretched with the crowd calling your name. See yourself collecting that well-deserved medal and post-race beer.

Trust in your training
Look back over your training diary from the last 6-9 months and remind yourself of how far you have come. Reflect on all the tough sessions you have pushed through and how they have made you into a stronger, fitter, more capable athlete.  Focus on the high points of your training and the sessions where you have performed well.  Trust in the work you’ve done and bolster your confidence knowing you are ready for the race.

Listen to music
Obviously you can’t listen to music during a triathlon, but on route to the race it helps to listen to a motivating playlist. Create a playlist of high-energy, fast tempo tracks which will help get you pumped up and ready for the race. Listen to tunes which bring back positive memories- perhaps of past races when you have performed well. I sing to myself in my head as I’m swimming, cycling and running- I find it helps with my rhythm! 

Positive self-talk
When the going gets tough during the race, it’s important to keep a positive mindset. Be your own supporter and cheer yourself along as you race. It’s helpful to memorize a few mantras to repeat to yourself- check out this guest post from Amy Stone for some inspirational phrases. Reverse any negative thoughts which come into your mind, for example I’ll tell myself “the water is cool and refreshing” rather than “it’s absolutely freezing”!

Control the controllables
Some aspects of race day are completely beyond your control, specifically the weather and other athletes on the course. Don’t waste energy worrying about these things- focus on what you can control. You can control how you think and how your feel. On race day, what will be will be and it comes down to how you react to it.

Enjoy it!
Ultimately we swim, bike and run because we enjoy it! Race with a smile on your face, don’t put to much pressure on yourself and celebrate your achievement!

How do you mentally prepare for a big race?


  1. excellent post!!! First thing though CONGRATS for being an amazing Half Ironman!!! You did it! I just saw it on twitter but I don’t have an account so I can’t congratulate you there. I had my first sprint Tri on the same day as you and I did like you said. I had an hour drive to get there and all the way I put the music so loud I’m sure the animals in the forest could hear it. (I was alone in the car driving somewhere on a highway in Eastern Canada, at 6am – so there was absolutely no traffic, only deer and birds. :)) I visualised myself in the water, in transition, on the bike and on the run. It really helped. For me, it doesn’t help if I visualise myself crossing the finish line because my HR gets so elevated you’d think I’, running. Also I am afraid that in case of an injury I would be devastated not to cross the line. I trusted my training, but always think that I could have done more. I had a lot of positive self talk. What I didn’t do well was to worry about the weather and the swim conditions. It was only 10C in the morning and it was a pool swim, so no suits allowed, but it stayed to rain any second. So we were so many in the pool at the end that you couldn’t see anything. Not even the wall at the end. I worried for no reason and it didn’t help. Next time, I will stay more calm and not worry about the little things. I can’t wait to see the full update of your race! Congrats again!

    1. You did fantastic! I thought of you as I was doing my race and wondered how it was going. You learn something with every race, so next time you will know what to expect. Well done again 🙂

  2. Hope the training is going well. Keep forgetting to day that I love the new header and name for your blog, very apt!
    I like to think of the finish line, but not too much as sometimes it makes me panic a bit, not sure why. I like singing in my head, and during races I like reading all the club vests and charity tops and things like that. And of course look forward to some sort of cake when I have finished!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.