TED for Runners: Make Prerace Anxiety Your Friend

Ideas worth spreading ... among runners!
Ideas worth spreading … among runners!

Over the winter, I discovered the joy of watching TED talks while getting in my treadmill miles. Almost every time I watched one I’d think darn, this applies to running! I should write a post about this! So guess what. I am. In this new occasional series, I’ll be bringing you a TED talk and will discuss how to apply the message of the talk to your running.

Our first talk is from psychologist, Kelly McGonigal and it’s called How to Make Stress Your Friend. How does this apply to running? Read on!

First, if you’d like to watch McGonigal’s talk before my discussion, you can find it embedded at the bottom of the post. If you don’t have 18 minutes to spare, just read from here.

The thesis of McGonigal’s talk is that despite what we’ve been lead to believe, it’s not stress that’s a killer. No, the real killer is believing that stress is bad for us! In fact, those who lead highly stressed lives who did not hold the belief that the stress was bad had mortality rates equal to those who lead low stress lives. WOW, right?!

That alone is a pretty profound reason to watch this talk. But let’s take it one step further and look into how this might help our running. As runners, when are we most stressed out? On the starting line! And how do we often feel about that anxiety? We want it to go away! I for one fight these feelings and often get even more stressed that the stress and anxiety are going to prevent me from performing my best. Argh!

But what if we do what McMonigal suggests and instead view that pre-race stress and anxiety as friendly. As she suggests, all those bodily processes that occur when we are stressed and actually going to enable us to kick butt. I for one intend to give it a shot. Next time I line up (this Sunday, eek!) I’m going to be excited about my jitters, need to pee … again, and sweaty palms. These are signs my body is keyed up and ready to rock it out on the race course! Strangely, by accepting these physical responses and viewing them as positives rather than annoying pre-race jitters that might derail your performance, you can actually turn that prerace stress into a ticket to your next great performance.

So what do you think? Has prerace stress ever negatively impacted your performance? Do you think McGonigal’s thesis about stress applies to running? Any other TED Talks you’ve seen that apply to runners?  

Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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1 comment

  1. Her sister (I think twin) has a series on using video games to help improve our lives. One the suggestions is to google baby animals if you are feeling anxious or sad. Works every time! Here’s the link:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world?language=en

    In regards to this talk, loved it. It fits perfectly with a frequent affirmation of mine: “I can be anxious and still do this.”

    Looking forward to more TED for runners!