How to deal with pre-race nerves

Elite Team
Written by: Hannah Miley at 17 April '14 0
You are reading: How to deal with pre-race nerves

Nerves are something that we all have to deal with at some point in our lives. It’s not the most enjoyable thing to experience but as an athlete it can hamper performance. Every athlete who stands on a podium has experienced nerves at some point in their careers; it is completely normal to feel them. How you deal and cope with them though is what can set you apart from the rest and become a champion in you sport. From my experience I can pass on from what I’ve learnt works well for me and if you wish to try the methods I hope they help!

  • Music: Music is a great form of relaxation and motivation and for me it’s a great way to help over come my nerves. My imagination is pretty vivid and I use my music to help get me in the “zone” and help me mentally be ready for my “battle” (my races).  Using upbeat songs help get me psyched up and excited for my races, I always look out for new music that helps me get in the mood to be ready to. Sometimes pre-competition I listen to calmer and more relaxing music before I go to bed, my favourite is by a guy called Ludovico Einaudi.
  • Visualisation: sometimes I find visualisation can help prepare myself mentally for a race. If I can focus on key points of the race this helps calm my nerves and allows me to feel I have control and calm the nerves. You don’t have to visualise your race, picturing images or events that make you happy or feel at ease can help you find a state of relaxation, which in turn should help with those pesky nerves.
  • Breathing: When you get nervous I find my pulse rate will go up. A great way to help get it under control is control my breathing. Find a quiet spot where you can sit and close your eyes and take a big breath in and then slowly exhale out. Whilst breathing out feel and imagine your pulse rate lower.
  • Use Positive self-talk: Keep things positive and remind yourself of all the good swim sets you’ve done.

Everyone responds differently to nerves and some will show it more than others. Remember the races you swim are for you sometimes as swimmers we put a lot of pressure and expectation on ourselves. Ask a swimmer recall the worst race and I’m pretty sure they can tell you exactly how the swim felt from the start right to the finish, ask a swimmer to recall the best race and they might not be much to the race apart from it felt good. Sometimes a great race can be made without over thinking and worrying and its all about managing and controlling that. Not the easiest thing to do, I still get it wrong from time to time but I don’t let that hamper my performance. I get back up on the horse as they say and carry on to the next race as I love my sport and I love swimming. At the end of the day that’s all that matters 🙂


Written by:

Hannah Miley