Relax! It’s Time to Celebrate Race Week!

MIT Winter Session 2011

Queue the Rocky theme song! [Da, Da, Daaaa, Da, Da, Daaaaaa] Crank up Eye of the Tiger. It’s the week you’ve all been waiting for! This Saturday, the MIT Lucky 13’s will be running your goal race – the Cap City Half Marathon in Columbus. For many of you, it is your first half marathon ever.

Yes, this is the week. This weekend you are going to run 13.1 miles. You are strong – you are probably in better physical and mental condition than you have been in your entire life. In fact, you are so ready that as you continue to taper this week, you may feel like you are losing your edge, even taking too much time off before the big day. Should you run more? Pick up the pace? Add an extra day just to be sure?

Not at all. By resting this week, you are actually becoming a stronger runner. It is through reast that our muscles become stronger. You are right where you need to be – you have trained long and hard for this race and you are ready. I have ever confidence in your training program and in you. You can do this, you will do this.

It is not uncommon to feel a great deal of anxiety this week and to feel wound up. It is important to relax, though. Worry and tension create fatigue. So, make sure you take some time this week to do whatever most relaxes you. I remember being completely terrified for my first half marathon and wound to the max, but looking back there was no need to stress myself out so much. I followed the same training plan as you and I made it through – it was the single greatest accomplishment of my life thus far. I have no doubts that you will also look back on your race with fond and proud memories.

Although you may feel like you know how to relax, sometimes added stress can make it hard to remember to do so. The benefits of relaxation are paramount. From a physical standpoint, injury, fatigue, soreness and stiffness are far less likely. Psychologically speaking reduced anxiety increase feelings of self-confidence and overall well-being. Plus, you also get better sleep at night thus improving your state of mind.

Helpful Tips to Help You Relax:

The Muscle to Mind Approach (a.k.a Progressive Relaxation)  

  • For each muscle group (i.e. hand and forearm; biceps, forehead, abdominal region, thigh, calf, foot, etc.) give yourself a verbal signal such as “tense” and immediately tense the muscle group. Practice until you can isolate the tension in each specific muscle group and maintain it for 5 to 7 seconds. Then, give yourself the verbal signal to “relax” and immediately relax the muscle group, keeping your focus on the muscle group so that you can feel it relax. Each muscle group should take less than 10 seconds so you can relax your body in about 2 minutes. Many people repeat this cycle multiple times to feel the full benefits.  

The Visualization Approach (a.k.a My Personal Favorite) 

  • And yes, it really works – it got me through the nerves for my first half! I did it religiously the days leading up to my race. Here’s a brief explanation: Begin by thinking about what kind of situation would generally be relaxing to you. For example, laying by the pool, taking a walk in the woods or reading your favorite book. Whatever it may be for you, try to imagine it in as complete as detail as possible. For me, it was visualizing success. I closed my eyes and envisioned myself crossing the finish line of my first race. I felt the breeze on my face, the warm sun on my face and the expected heaviness of my legs at the last few hundred yards. I heard my friends and family cheering me on and I saw them jumping, waving and cheering from the sidelines. I felt and heard my breathing, even and controlled – in my visualization, I was calm and successful. Now, for many, this may not be relaxing, but it was for me – so, my words of advice? Choose what is right for you! 


“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.”

-George Sheehan

Until the next mile marker,


  1. Thanks for your kind words, Sara! I’m feeling like a little kid right before Christmas today! Thanks again for all you’ve done to help us prepare for Saturday. Getting to know you and the other Lucky 13’s has been the best thing that happened to me this year. You guys are like my family (I’m probably everyone’s creepy uncle). I’m so honored to run with all of you!

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