Pre-Race Jitters

Question: How do you get rid of jitters? I am tired of always getting the jitters for every piece, but I have no clue how to handle them! Any suggestions?

Answer: First of all, let me congratulate you on getting the jitters because if you did not get them then that would signal to me that you do not care very much. Getting nervous is natural, it's healthy and it CAN make you go faster. Getting irrationally nervous and in particular, nervous too early can also make you slower. This is why I will often refrain from telling athletes the workouts in advance since I do not want you wasting mental energy worrying and/or thinking about the pieces. 

So,  how to handle the jitters? Change the way you are thinking about them.

The jitters can be a clear sign that the body is producing cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol over short periods of time, like the five minutes before a hard erg piece, can do great things for you as it is preparing you to handle the stress. You read that correctly, the BODY is preparing for the stress. It sounds to me, like what you are focusing on, is the brain's interpretation of that reaction. You may be interpreting that jittery feeling as a signal that you are unprepared, that you are going to be extremely uncomfortably and that you will "fail." If that is accurate, then we need to train your brain to respond to those feelings differently. 

When you get those fluttery, nauseous, anxious feelings - recognize them and validate them. It is OK and totally natural to have those feelings and then THANK your body for getting them. Yes, THANK your body. Your body and your mind know that 1) this is going to be hard; 2) this is going to be extremely uncomfortable; and 3) you really care about doing well. This is GREAT NEWS. After you have thanked your body for responding appropriately, take five deep breathes, roll your neck around and reframe the situation. You are about to start the work and you are grateful for the opportunity to have a healthy and strong body that is ready and willing to do the work. 

Remember the Ready Set Row SEE Life Framework - we want you to constantly

SEEK Challenges


EXPECT Discomfort

You have already sought out the challenge of joining Ready Set Row and coming to practice every day. You are willingly and gratefully embracing the work that I am asking you to do and you are fully aware that the discomfort is guaranteed - it just matters how you respond to the discomfort. 

After you have taken your five breaths and rolled your shoulders up and down and stretched your neck - tell yourself: "My body is ready." What you feel is not "the jitters" but it is the signal that your body is ready to rock and that is very powerful. If you did not have the jitters, you should be very nervous. Then, commit to the work. Read the workout and tell yourself that you are mentally and physically committing to give 100% of your effort during the workout. If you do that, the splits will come. Commit before the warmup, go through your warmup motions and then commit to every stroke, one at a time. Remember, LOVE THE FIGHT. 

The worst part of a hard erg piece is the few minutes leading up to it- repeat in your head "My body is ready." and "I am a fighter." over and over and over again until they call "Row!"

You are Ready - Love the Fight, 

Coach Holly

Interview with Sporty Girl
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