As an endurance coach, I see athletes of all levels push themselves to the limit. We train hard, build race strategies and fuel our bodies for peak performance. Yet, on race day, nerves can still creep in, threatening to derail all that preparation. But what if there was a simple, tool that could help you manage pre-race jitters and perform at your best? Enter the power of rituals.

A recent study by Alison Wood Brooks and colleagues, titled "Don't Stop Believing: Rituals Improve Performance by Decreasing Anxiety" [1], sheds light on the significant impact rituals can have on performance. The study found that engaging in a pre-performance ritual, even a newly created one, significantly reduced anxiety and improved participant performance. This is particularly relevant for endurance athletes, who often face high levels of stress before a race.

How Rituals Work Their Magic

So, how exactly do rituals help us perform better? The study suggests that rituals work by reducing anxiety. Anxiety can be a double-edged sword. While a low level of anxiety can heighten focus, high levels can cloud judgment and hinder performance. Rituals provide a sense of control and predictability in a potentially stressful situation. Following a familiar sequence of actions, we signal to ourselves that we're prepared and ready to tackle the challenge.

Examples of Pre-Race Rituals for Endurance Athletes

The beauty of rituals is that they can be highly personalised. Here are some commonly used pre-race rituals for endurance athletes, along with the psychological benefits they offer:

  • Gear Check: Checking your equipment ensuring everything is in working order and laid out neatly provides a sense of control and preparedness.
  • Visualisation: Mentally rehearsing your race can boost your self-belief and calm pre-race nerves.
  • Mantra or Affirmation: Repeating a personal mantra or affirmation like "I am strong" "I am prepared" or "Calm" focuses your mind on your capabilities and increases self-confidence.
  • Warm-Up Routine: Following a consistent warm-up routine prepares your body physically and mentally for the race ahead.

Creating Your Own Pre-Race Ritual

The key to a powerful ritual is that it's meaningful to you. Here are some tips to create your own pre-race ritual:

  • Reflect on your past successes: Think of past races you've performed well in. What did you do before those races? Did you have any specific routines or habits?
  • Incorporate calming activities: Does listening to a specific playlist, and practising mindfulness help you focus and relax?
  • Experiment and refine: Don't be afraid to experiment with different pre-race routines and find what works best for you. Over time, your ritual will become a powerful tool you can rely on to manage nerves and optimise your performance.

The Takeaway

Rituals are more than just good luck charms; they are a proven tool for managing anxiety and improving performance. By incorporating personalised pre-race rituals into your routine, you can approach race day with greater confidence and unlock your full potential. So, the next time you're feeling pre-race jitters, remember: don't stop believing in the power of your rituals.


  1. Brooks, A. W., Schroeder, J., Risen, J. L., Gino, F., Galinsky, A. D., Norton, M. I., & Schweitzer, M. E. (2012). Don't stop believing: Rituals improve performance by decreasing anxiety. Psychological Science, 23(6), 701-706.