Race Day Preparation from World Champion Triathlete Katie Zaferes

Dr. Jeff Moreno discusses how common pre-race anxiety is, framing it as a reflection of one's passion for the task at hand, and sharing a poem by Olympian & World Champion Katie Zaferes on mental race day readiness. 

A Champion's Mind

I was recently reminded by a young client that an athlete’s mind requires just as much attention and training as the physical body. This young and highly curious runner sat down and explained how he is crippled with pre-race anxiety and nervousness, but doesn't know what to do or how to control these feelings. I am sure most of us can relate to these same feelings.

I explained to him that pre-race nerves are absolutely NORMAL, and are a direct reflection of his love and intrinsic motivation to achieve in a sport he cares so deeply for. I also reassured him that he is not alone: some of the best athletes in the world struggle with the same feelings. The major difference is that they work hard to train their minds as well as their bodies, using positive self-talk and a perspective that redirects pre-race nervousness toward confidence and control.

This powerful shift in perspective–and the resulting calm that ensues–are best explained through the lens of a champion’s mind! So, who better than Katie Zaferes, the 2019 World Triathlon Champion, to learn from in preparing for and controlling these natural pre-race jitters?

Katie wrote a poem early in her season and shared it with me. Amazed by the power of her words, I have since used it as a teaching tool for other athletes I work with, and am happy to share it with you now. Let Katie's words teach you to master your nerves, and always remember: breathe in, breathe out.

Dr. Jeff Moreno

Photo: Wagner Araujo / triathlon.org

Breathe in, Breathe out

by Katie Zaferes

The nerves are high, your chest is tight,

Feelings which only having care can ignite.

Emotions both tumultuous and effervescent,

You bring your focus back to the present.

You breathe in calm, breathe out fear,

Knowing the preparation that got you here.

Breathe in purpose, breathe out pressure.

Of all controllables you are the possessor.

Breathe in joy, breathe out dread,

Use an explorative mindset for what lies ahead.

Breathe in confidence, breathe out doubt,

Take the time to embrace all of your clout.

Breathe in the process, breathe out the conclusion,

Skipping too far ahead can cause an illusion.

Breathe in power, breathe out lassitude,

It all starts here with a change of attitude.

Breathe in adaptability, breathe out concern,

No matter what happens there’s something to learn.

Breathe in strength, breathe out weakness,

Now is the time to let go of your meekness.

Breathe in bravery, breathe out comfort,

Risk often leads to being triumphant.

Breathe in resilience, breathe out pain,

Everyone’s hurting but your strength will remain.

Breathe in community, breathe out isolation,

This whole journey has been a collaboration.

Breathe in you, breathe out distraction,

Do not let comparison lead to detraction.

All you breathe in encompasses you,

Ready to conquer what you came to pursue.

Learn More

Katie is an Olympian (2016) and the 2019 World Champion (ITU World Triathlon Series overall champion). She is a client and friend of PWR Lab's Dr. Jeff Moreno, and a shining example of the superpowers required of a World Champion. Katie's perspective, work ethic, and commitment to a sustainable, "long game" process make her a role model for countless, both in and out of sport.

Follow Katie's journey to learn more

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Dr. Jeff Moreno
About Dr. Jeff Moreno

Jeff, co-founder of PWR Lab, is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Board-Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist. Passionate about running and playing, Jeff fundamentally loves people and movement of any kind. He strives to raise the bar in sport by finding ways to proactively prevent injuries and prioritize the long term development of athletes. He has been successful in employing a data-driven, hands-on approach to physiotherapy with National, World & Olympic Championship medalists in Track & Field from USA, China, Canada, and Mexico as well as many NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Judo, and Triathlon athletes