Are you ready for the lions chasing you?
My pre-race routine used to consist of getting to the race venue shortly before it started and rushing to register and suit up. The adrenaline “rush” from being late caused my hands to shake as I pinned on my number. That shot of adrenaline also served as my warm-up. But it took away valuable energy reserves that I could have used in my race.
Our body’s ability to react to stress is not infinite. It also does not differentiate between “worthy” reasons to get amped up or trivial ones. That is, whether a lion is chasing you or someone cuts in line at the grocery store and you stress about it –your “adrenaline factory” goes into production. So, it is useful to limit stress reactions as much as possible, and conserve the raw materials in the “adrenaline factory” for when we really need them.
How to avoid stress?
Easier said than done, of course. Some stress is unavoidable. We can’t have all our ducks in a row all the time. Just like you can’t keep up with laundry unless you stop wearing clothes – there is always something to be done, and it usually involves finite time. Besides keeping up with daily chores, deadlines at work, accidents and illness, and arguments with those close to us tend to crop up and may be unavoidable.
For me, a successful stress reducer is proper time management. That’s allotting enough time for activities, not scheduling too many activities, being punctual, allotting time for preparation and relaxed consumption of a healthy meal, and getting enough sleep.
Another way to avoid stressing out is to approach stress with your head rather than your emotions. Here are three examples. I use traffic to illustrate my examples because they are a potentially major cause of stress for me.
Do you really need to yell at the person who cuts you off on the highway? You’re not getting through to them and you’re just firing yourself up. I like to assume the person is learning disabled and I choose to feel sorry for them, and ignore them.
Change the situation.
Traffic gets backed up when you travel to work and you are always five minutes late. Change the situation by leaving 10 minutes early. If traffic gets backed up, it’s no longer something to stress over because you have an extra five minutes’ buffer built in.
Remove yourself from the situation.
On your evening training route, the close calls with vehicles induce several “near death experiences” per night. Pick a new route, drive out of town, ride indoors, wait half an hour… Rack your brains: how to avoid that situation.
I do not have the calm of the Dalai Lama, who is a master at remaining serene and detached when faced with the stresses of life. The tips I’ve included above are things I work on daily. Still, I’ve noticed that the more I eliminate stress by proper time management, changing myself or the situation, and removing myself from the situation, the more energy and resources I have to produce adrenaline for when I really need it – in my racing.
In conclusion, I hope you don’t get chased by a lion any time soon – but proper stress management will have you putting out your best sprint effort if you do!