The Race Day Ritual

It was Benjamin Franklin who famously said, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”.

Race morning is a stressful time for even the toughest athletes. You find yourself in a new location with so much extra stimulation hitting your senses, nerves are at a new high and yet this is the day you were waiting for. Smart athletes use a well planned ritual to get their butterflies flying in formation. These tried and tested tricks of the trade prepare the body and mind for a peak performance.

Nothing New!

We all know not to try anything new on race day and the same goes for your pre-race nutrition and hydration. With some simple planning you can eat your usual breakfast 2-3 hours prior to the race, optimally digest it and have chance to do your usual bathroom routine before you even head to the race site. This will keep your nervous stomach happy and set you up to better absorb your in-race fuel.


Focus on what you can control. This includes your gear, your warm-up, your breathing and attitude. Gear checklists, breathing exercises, meditations and running through a successful race in your mind’s eye are all useful habits. Your favorite mix-tape on your headphones can shut out unwanted stimuli and help you avoid any negative transition talk.


You can develop your best pre-race ritual by looking closely at how you prepare to train. What makes you feel great that you do before every training session? What is it that makes you smile and relax even when you are tense?

Many successful athletes have a written timetable that counts down systematically to the race start. It allows them plenty of time for each task, thereby reducing stress and allowing them to be ready when the gun goes.

The reverse warm-up (run, bike, swim) is a great way to prep not only your body but also your mind. Use to it to check the transition In’s & Out’s so you can easily locate your bike rack from all entrances. Include a little intensity in your warm-ups to signal to the body and mind that you are ready to perform

There is no “magic system” that will work for everyone so it’s up to you to find what works for you. Embrace the ritual and hit a performance high. Ignore it at your peril.

Over the years, Gareth Thomas has been coach & advisor to top endurance athletes including World & National champions in Triathlon, Duathlon & Cycling. Recognized as a leading authority on blood lactate testing, he brings elite level coaching & sports science to athletes all around the world.