From what we wear to what we eat, the mantras we repeat to ourselves, or how we tie our shoelaces on race day, running rituals give us a sense of control in a world filled with uncertainties. Studies show that practicing rituals before doing sports regulates the brain’s response to performance failure, which thereby reduces stress and anxiety, and improves mental toughness. (1) Rituals can help athletes focus their minds and calm their nerves, while also building trust within a running community when practiced in a group.
What are running rituals and why do we use them?
“A ritual is a predefined sequence of symbolic actions often characterized by formality and repetition that lacks direct instrumental purpose.”(2)
What does this mean for runners? The knot in your stomach on race day loosens a bit if you lay out your race kit the night before. Worried about getting stomach cramps during a run? Always eat the same pre-run snack to prevent any surprises. For some, these are habits or traditions; often these actions have a ritual-like pattern to them. Since the dawn of our existence, human beings have used rituals to improve performance in many different areas. Today these can be competitive sports, public speaking, taking exams, or even first dates. Although rituals do not have a “direct instrumental purpose”, any situation that creates anxiety or stress can be managed better by using them.
In a 2016 study published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, researchers found that rituals consistently decreased anxiety across different performance tasks as assessed by subjective reporting from those participating in the study as well as physiological evidence: heart rate. Rituals are coping strategies that can have a powerful effect on performance. Using a common saying or action or a lucky charm has been shown to improve athletic performance and motor dexterity. (3) It’s not surprising that many runners use rituals to give themselves structure, boost their performance, and relieve pre-race anxiety.
What are your rituals?
We asked adidas Runners (AR) members around the world to share their running rituals with us. Here are some of the highlights:
Race Day Rituals in adidas Runners
Curious about how adidas Runners members handle race day jitters and how rituals help them reach their goal? Here’s what they said:
Running Mantras for Mental Toughness
If you’ve never tried adopting a mantra to help you achieve your goals, take a lesson from running legend Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon in 1967. Her mantra? “Be fearless, be free, be grateful.” AR runners know the power of mantras to help them maintain mental toughness when the pressure is on.
The examples above show how rituals can help individuals reach their goals. adidas Runners communities also find them helpful for groups, particularly if the running community is virtual. Reeti Sahai, Captain of AR Delhi, told us how thinking about her post-race Instagram pic is something that motivates her to keep going during a marathon. And she’s not the only one who gets motivated. Sharing achievements on social media networks inspires other runners to set new goals and strengthens the bond within the running community.
Join an adidas Runners digital accountability group from March 29 on to keep you committed to your goals. Find everything you need to know about how to join on the AR Instagram account. Ready for a new challenge in April? Check out the Run with AR: Go for 30! challenge in the adidas Running app.
Interested in more information about running rituals in the adidas Runners community? Listen to episode 1 of the adidas Runners mini-podcast series on mindset and movement here.
There are many different ways to improve your running. Muscle growth and endurance training are only part of the equation. Focusing your mind and quelling any doubts you may have about achieving your goals is critical to success. What you wear, what you eat, how you talk to yourself – these are all examples of how rituals are used to give you the extra edge you need to set that PR or cross the finish line. The AR community is an empowering environment in which you can find motivation, inspiration, and support. The trust that is built within a running community like adidas Runners can carry you through when you doubt yourself.