Although we don’t always look good when we cross the finish line, I think there is some truth to the saying “look good, feel good.” But more importantly, if we make something about race day special, we often get a little added energy and confidence. Not all of us can pull off the lacey cap sleeve singlet like Alexi Pappas or the incredible Maggie Vessey racing singlets, but we can all find something that makes us feel a little extra special when we get to the start line.
After one soccer game in high school, just before heading to Eugene for the state cross country meet the next day, a friend gave me a tiny butterfly with the words “wings so you can fly” written on it. Although this tiny trinket couldn’t wipe away the fatigue from a 90-minute game, rehydrate me, or replenish my glycogen stores, it could give me a little extra confidence knowing that someone believed in me. In my experience as an athlete, coach, and physiologist, I’ve learned that not only can the mind trick the body, the body can also trick the mind.
Research has even shown that our race day routines and superstitions can improve performance. This study, “Keep Your Fingers Crossed! How superstition Improves Performance,” found that good luck charms improved performance. Their research found this improvement in performance resulted from increased self-efficacy, or belief that we can do something or achieve our goals. The presence of a good luck charm or someone telling them good luck not only improved performance and confidence, it also caused individuals to set higher goals. This has direct implications for things we can do to improve our own performance in any task, but also a means by which we can support our friends, family, and teammates in their endeavors.
So, as Team Run Eugene gears up for our first indoor track meet at the UW Invitational, I’m starting to pull out my good luck charms.
Here’s just a very small sampling of my earring collection. Rather than picking earrings to match my outfit, I like to pick my earrings to match my mood…for races too. For most of track season, my blue hearts were my race earrings. A reminder to myself that my heart has to be in it if I want to race well. Most recently, my ladybug earrings made their debut at Xterra Trail Worlds. I knew I’d need wings for this one, but I didn’t realize how well I would get to know the trees. Which ones make for good indoor 3k race earrings? Do you have a vote?!
Whether it’s treating yourself to dinner at your favorite restaurant, watching an inspirational movie, a lucky pair of socks, war paint, a fun shirt, or the perfect pair of earrings, finding something to make race day special can give you a little extra boost of energy and confidence.
But don’t worry, confidence doesn’t only come from good luck charms. All that preparation and hard work is what gets us to the start line and then we can use our body language to improve self-efficacy and performance. Check out this great TED talk. Where could you use a Power Pose this week?