Runners, this one’s for you.

Have you ever experienced that feeling at the start line, your stomach is doing flips, your heart rate is elevated, and all the build up of nerves and adrenaline make you feel like you’re going to be sick? How about the night before, trying to fall asleep, but your race day worries get the better of you and instead of sleeping you lay awake thinking about how your lack of sleep will affect your performance the next day?

It’s ironic — running and exercise are supposed to help reduce anxiety, so it seems odd that running may sometimes cause us anxiety. But fear not. It’s more common than you may think for runners to experience anxiety pre-race, or even during the race. And because this can drastically affect race performance, we’ve come up with our best treatment tips to help reduce that pesky runners anxiety.

[1] Talk to someone. Sometimes all we need is someone to share our thoughts, feelings, or concerns with — someone who will listen without judgment, and maybe even offer some objective advice. A psychologist is a really great option for this. Talking through our fears or concerns with another individual is often an effective way to reduce or eliminate them. A psychologist can also give you tools to work with outside of your session. Breathing techniques and visualization are common ways to help a runner reduce the stress and anxiety they may feel before a race.

[2] Seek out relaxation. As race day approaches and training winds down, it might be helpful to seek treatments that are known for helping to reduce stress and anxiety. Acupuncture, Reiki, and massage are three highly effective treatments for increasing relaxation in the body and reducing, or even eliminating symptoms of anxiety and stress. Booking yourself for these types of treatments well in advance of your race will keep you mentally prepared and ready to deal with race day, or race week stresses. Be sure to communicate your concerns with your treatment practitioner in advance so they can provide the most effective massage, Reiki, or acupuncture appointment for you.

[3] Be conscious about what you put into your body. What we eat can have a big impact on how we feel mentally as well as physically. Consuming large amounts of alcohol, sugar, and caffeine are known to increase symptoms of anxiety, so well in advance of race day is an important time to re-think our diets and what we’re putting in our bodies. Seeking out guidance from a nutritionist is one way you can ensure you’re fuelling your body with the best ingredients pre- and post-race. A nutritionist can create a specialized plan with foods designed for optimal sports performance and anxiety reduction.

As you start to plan for your running races this year, we encourage you to consider not only the physical preparation, but also the mental preparation needed for race day. If you’re like so many out there who suffer from race day anxiety, making a plan to seek treatment before (and after!) you race is a critical part of performance. The wonderful teams of psychologists, Reiki practitioners, massage therapists, acupuncturists, and nutritionists at Park Integrative Health are here to help you prepare for your best race yet!