Feeling nervous before a race? If so, you’re not alone. Runners of all abilities and experience levels have jitters before a race. And if you let those jitters get the best of you, they can be more detrimental to your race performance than inadequate training. In fact, they can even keep you from crossing the start line.

There’s no reason to let race jitters get the best of you after you’ve trained and prepared for race day. Just follow this advice for releasing those butterflies.

Remember That Your Mind Controls Your Body

Don’t let negative thoughts get the best of you in the days, hours or minutes leading up to a race. Squash the “what ifs” that may pop up in your mind. If they start to rear their ugly heads, replace those thoughts with a reminder that you are as prepared as you can be for the race. Prepare a list of affirmations you can use to keep yourself positive when fear, anxiety or negatively takes hold.

Have A Plan

There’s usually quite a bit of time spent waiting around for the event to start and that’s when nerves can really get the best of you. If you are worried about getting to the bathroom in time for the start, get on line as soon as you get there. If you know your racing thoughts tend to get the best of you, be prepared with a podcast to listen to or bring a friend to talk to before the start. Planning for occurrences that may make you uneasy will help you get through them easier.

Stay Away From The Start

Many runners find that hanging out near the start line ups their anxiety. If that’s you, spend that pre-race time as far from the nerve-wracking start as you can. Do your warm up off to the side or go on a walk to get loose. If you have to be near the start, put on headphones and listen to music that gets you going and blocks out what’s going on around you.

Practice Visualization

Most pre-race jitters are caused by a fear of failure. If you’re nervous about how you’ll perform, close your eyes and visualize how you want the race to unfold. You’re more likely to be successful if you run through the scenarios that will help you get there.

Embrace The Experience

Sure you may wake up with butterflies in your stomach or be nervous that you won’t have it in you to get to the finish line. But rather than dwelling on your physical uneasiness or your nervous thoughts, look around you and take it all in. Note all the other runners that are warming up, smiling or laughing with friends. Remind yourself that they’re likely feeling as jittery as you are but that you’ll all get through. Pay attention to the onlookers and read the signs. Remind yourself that you’ve felt like this before but you can do this.

Practice Relaxation Breathing

Practice relaxation breathing, taking long deep breaths from your diaphragm. This will help to soothe your nerves, relax your mind and lower your heart rate. Close your eyes to shut out the chaos surrounding you and repeat a mantra such as “I am strong.”