Posted On:
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Coach Tip Tuesday: Have Your Butterflies Fly in Formation

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A close-up photo of many different butterflies of all different colors preparing to take off and fly.

Coach Tip Tuesday is here once again!

If you’ve been following along for the last few weeks, you know that I’ve been discussing the final time periods leading into a race, including Peak Phase, Taper Phase, and mindset as it relates to race day. This week’s post builds on these three posts and is about another sensation you may experience as race day looms near: nervousness or anxiety.

These two words (and the word ‘anxiety’ in particular) have gotten a bad rap.  If I mention to someone that they might be experiencing anxiety, many times I am met with “No, I’m not, it’s just…[insert something else here]” as a response.

Well, I’m here to tell you that we ALL experience anxiety, and no, you are not the one and only human who is the exception to this rule.  (So please embrace this truth. :) )

If you are feeling nervous, this means that you are feeling stimulated.  Yes, indeed, the root of the word ‘nervous’ stems from ‘innervate’, which means “sending of a stimulus through the nerves.”  So, to say that you are nervous means that you are activated and sensing that something is coming.  

As you approach race day, you may feel both nervous and anxious.  ‘Anxiety,’ per it’s actual origin and definition, means that you are “troubled by uncertainties”.  Race day is always at least a bit of an uncertainty, even if you have completed that type of event or that particular distance before.  Humans as a species like consistency, and thus we do tend to shy away from uncertainty.  So, it stands to reason that you may be troubled when you know for sure that something uncertain is looming.

If you are feeling nervous or anxious - or both - it’s important to remember the lesson that we talked about in last week’s Coach Tip Tuesday: You can reframe your thoughts and transmute them into something that works for you instead of something that works against you.

So, if you are feeling those butterflies in your stomach prior to race day (or on race day), that’s VERY okay!  Let’s try to have them fly in formation.  

How do we get those butterflies to fly in formation?  Well, I’ve found several tactics to be helpful:

  • Focus on YOU during your final preparation for your race and limit your inputs. While it may seem helpful at face value to seek the input of others, online groups, etc., I’ve observed that too much input (whether from well-meaning folks or from online social media circles) can have the opposite of its intended impact and can actually increase feelings of anxiety instead of diminishing them.
  • DO lean into your very trusted circle - your spouse, family, closest friends, and coach if you have one - to be your inputs as you approach race day. These people are deeply invested in you and have been walking alongside you for a very long time. As such (and contrary to the wide pool of inputs that you may get online or from acquaintances), the advice they give has a much higher probability of resonating with you in a positive, productive way.
  • Look back over the body of work you have completed prior to this point. Read through the notes you’ve left yourself in your training logs or journals. Trust your training and what you have done to get here.
  • Write down (in real words, with real pen and paper) exactly what emotions you are feeling. Journaling can be a really positive way to sort out the thoughts that are swirling around in your brain.
  • Remember why you started on this journey in the first place. Chances are that you began this journey seeking to learn more about yourself, see how far you could go, and/or enjoy the experience. Remember that this is FUN and don’t take yourself too seriously. CELEBRATE all that you have done and what you are about to do.

It’s okay to feel nervous.  It’s okay to feel anxious.  And it’s okay (gasp!) to tell people that this is exactly how you are feeling.  Having feelings makes you, well, a normal human.  If you weren’t feeling anything as you head into an event that you have proclaimed to be important to you (and important enough to invest so much time and resources into), then that would be very odd, indeed.  If you weren’t feeling anything, I’d be giving you the advice that you may want to reconsider whether doing this is really what you want to be doing.

This season and beyond, when you have those pre-race butterflies (and I know you will ;) ), aim to get them to fly into formation to serve you well as you take on your hard and well-earned race day.

About

Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at laura@fullcircleendurance.com.

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