I’ve been there myself, many times, not only when I’m participating in a stressful physical event such as a belt grading but also when being part of something where I’m the center of attention, especially when I don’t know my audience. Our mind takes over often focusing on the worst outcome and it only makes matters worse. Worse case is we can feel like a prisoner of our mind.
The title of this post may seem a bit ambiguous at this point but let’s see if I can add clarity later on.
You’re about an hour away from an event that you are participating in, maybe a 10k or marathon, or something else that you want to do really well in and you start to feel those nerves. You need to be well fuelled, hydrated for this event but you have concerns that if you consume too much too close to the start you’ll end up missing the start of the event or have to stop partway during the event for a washroom break.
It’s happened before but you really don’t want to have to deal with it again for obvious reasons. Is it your diet or do you have the unfortunate burden of having a sensitive gut? It very well could be the foods you eat. I’ve written a number of posts that talk about diet so I’m not going in depth on this post, you can go back and read them.
Your gut Flora has a large influence on your overall health and also how your stomach can deal with anxiety and nerves. First off, ditch the dairy. No other animal consumes dairy after being weened so why do we (hint, it has to do with money)? Then, lose all the other animal products you consume and replace them with complex carbs, pulses, nuts, seeds, and so on. Focus on whole foods plant based eating. If you’re someone who doesn’t produce a daily stool easily then that will change, for the better.
Now that you are eating the foods that help with digestion and provide you with the fuel you need to compete you can start to focus on pre event fueling. Complex carbs approximately 2 hours before your event, something like steel cut oats with some fruit (if having apples lose the skin as it’s difficult to digest and we’re trying to avoid that). 15 minutes before the event you could then consume a gel energy pack to top up the fuel tank.
If this is new to you I highly recommend you follow the routine you plan to use before several of your workouts to see how you react to it.
- Never try something new before an event! Never do this the day before or the day of. You will not want to find out that your stomach disagrees with the new energy drink or gel you decided to try.
Now, let’s get to the meaning of the quote I used. The mind, we need to control our mind. Our mind is very powerful and I believe most of us underestimate what it can do to us or what we can have it do for us. Too often we let the negative mind take control and do our bidding.
Why is it that you have done many long runs leading up to your event without any gut issues but now, just before the race you are looking for the porta-potty? You let your mind get the better of you. Anxiety, uncertainty, fear, doubt can put your nervous system into overdrive impacting the blood flow to the gut thus slowing down digestion and activating the colon muscles.
Breathe, relax, meditate, put on music that can get you to that relaxed state you need. Just like the mind can put you in that anxious state so it can also put you in that relaxed state. I think we don’t realize that because no one has taught us that. Quick question: how many of you have taken a course on meditation? I’m betting the vast majority haven’t.
Something else that can be done is to make it familiar. The more times you are in this situation the more normal it will be and the more relaxed you will probably be.
Having nerves is normal, it can help you achieve great things as long as those nerves don’t become unmanageable.
A positive and relaxed mind can do wonders too. Read a book on mindfulness, watch some instructional videos on meditation. I hope you get to find that out for yourself.
Yours in health,