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  • Edgar S.

The Silent Struggle: Navigating Pre-Event Stress and Anxiety in Endurance Sports

Updated: Mar 7

The starting line looms, muscles tense, heart pounding. Excitement bubbles, yes, but so does a different feeling: stress. The pre-event jitters hit all endurance athletes, even the seasoned veterans. While physical training is crucial, conquering the mental game before the starting gun goes off is just as important.

Why the Butterflies Flutter:

Stress and anxiety before an event are normal responses to a challenging situation. Your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, releasing adrenaline and cortisol, making you hyper-alert and on edge. This can feel unpleasant, but remember, it's your body gearing you up for peak performance.

However, excessive stress can backfire:

Negative self-talk: Doubts creep in, undermining your confidence and fueling performance anxiety.

Racing thoughts: Sleep suffers, focus dwindles, and pre-race preparation falls by the wayside.

Muscle tension: Tightness affects form and technique, leading to fatigue and potential injury.


Fortunately, athletes have some well-known strategies/ tools to manage pre-event stress and anxiety:

Practice mindfulness: Meditation and deep breathing exercises calm the mind and body, increasing focus and reducing tension.

Visualization: Rehearse your race mentally, picturing yourself performing smoothly and confidently.

Positive self-talk: Challenge negative thoughts with affirmations of your strengths and past successes.

Routine and structure: Sticking to a familiar pre-event routine provides a sense of control and reduces uncertainty.

Seek professional help: A sports psychologist can offer personalized techniques and strategies to manage anxiety if you're deep on that situation.

Standing Shoulder-to-Shoulder: The Coach's Role in Ultradistance Cycling

Beyond the training and race strategies, I believe a coach's role in ultradistance cycling goes deeper. We walk side-by-side with our athletes, understanding that not all events are created equal. Unsupported ultradistance races, in particular, magnify the mental and emotional challenges.

These events throw a lot at riders: doubts about finishing, the sheer distance and climbing, unfamiliar terrain, and the ever-present possibility of technical issues. It's a recipe for anxiety, and that's where a coach can be a critical support system.

Sure, we help with the training, race strategy, equipment selection, and all the logistical details that contribute to success. But it's the experience we bring to the table that truly makes a difference.

Through in-depth analysis of the course, competitor profiles, weather forecasts, food & water availability, and other factors, a coach can foster a profound dialogue with the athlete. This collaborative approach not only prepares them for the physical demands but also provides mental clarity and peace of mind.

And let's be honest, coaches aren't immune to anxiety when our athletes embark on these epic journeys. But by sharing the burden and offering unwavering support, we create a powerful partnership that empowers both athlete and coach to reach their full potential.

Stress isn't the enemy: Accept it as a natural response, learn to manage it, and channel it into positive energy.

Focus on the process: Don't obsess over the outcome. Be present in the moment and enjoy the experience.

Celebrate small wins: Acknowledge your progress, both physically and mentally, throughout your training journey.

Find your support system: Surround yourself with positive people who believe in you and your abilities.

By understanding and addressing pre-event stress and anxiety, you can silence the mental monster and step onto the starting line ready to conquer your next challenge. Remember, the strongest athletes are those who master not just their bodies, but also their minds.

Share your experiences! Talking openly about anxiety can normalize it and offer support to others.

Consider journaling to track your emotional state and identify triggers.

May your resilience and endurance inspire others to embark on their epic adventures.

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