Training Week 13: Calming the Butterflies

I've been thinking about butterflies this past week.

Not like the pretty flying ones (it's too cold for those right now) but the ones that fly around your stomach. The butterflies that make palms sweat, stomachs flip and cause all kinds of antsy-ness.

The butterflies sneak up on me before big workouts, on the night before the race and even before I play piano in church. I'm pretty sure I get more nervous to play piano in front of people than I do to run a marathon!

Performance anxiety is the technical name for those "butterflies" that have been chasing me since I sat down for my first piano recital. While I love to compete, present ideas, meet new people, and play music, the performance anxiety that tags along with these experiences can suck out all the fun.

Turns out I'm not alone!
"Millions of people suffer from performance anxiety, commonly called "stage fright." In fact, most people would rather get the flu than perform. Athletes, musicians, actors, and public speakers often get performance anxiety." WebMD article
The butterflies are not necessarily a bad thing. It means that whatever I'm nervous about must be really important to me and, in running at least, the butterflies give me some extra adrenaline on the starting line. (That extra adrenaline isn't super helpful on the piano though!)

The key for me is learning to cope with the butterflies and not waste a bunch of life worrying about situations I can't control. 

I practiced the songs for this Sunday and got all kinds of nervous... and then guess what? The worship team I play on ended up not playing! All those nerves for nothing. Not necessarily nothing — I can always use extra practice and this led me to think up this list.

Here are a few techniques that help me chill out before a hard workout or big race day:

Six Ways to Calm the Butterflies

  1. Visualize Success. Picture yourself being confident, truly enjoying the performance and running strong. Be realistic but don't catastrophize! 
  2. Destroy Defeating Thoughts. My favorite Scriptures about this are Philippians 4:8 and 2 Corinthians 10:4-6. We can take any unhealthy thoughts captive and re-align them with Jesus Christ and the Truth. Run each thought through the filter of Scripture: "Is this true? Pure? Excellent? Praiseworthy?" 
  3. Learn from Mistakes. Then move on! I tend to replay the bad experiences in my head, like that tennis match where I choked or that piano performance where I messed up big time. Learn the lesson and then press forward. Think of how many times things have gone right and let those mistakes go. And sing Frozen's "Let It Go" song, if that helps.
  4. Recap The Training. Here's where a training log comes in handy. Look over all those miles you put into training. The early mornings, long runs, and crazy sweaty speed interval sessions... and let's not forget the hill sprints... have prepared you. You've got this!
  5. Adjust Your Goals. Take the pressure off hitting a specific finish time or pace because so many variables can affect your time and pace (weather, illness, injury, teething babies, etc.) Listen to your body and give it everything you have on that day. Think about all you have learned through the training process and view race day as a celebration of all that work!
  6. Do It Unto the Lord. You've put in the training and have done everything within your power to prepare. Believe you can do it, give it your best effort and give all the glory to God — because it's all His. Having the health and ability to run is truly a gift from the Lord. We wouldn't have legs to run with without Him!
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. PHILIPPIANS 4:8 NIV
Running before the April Fool's snow

Fargo Marathon Training Week 13:

This week was originally scheduled as my first 18-miler, but I swapped it with last week and added on 2 miles just for giggles. I'm thankful I did that week swap because the weather on Saturday would have been frustrating for 20 miles! Here's how my "recovery" week went:

3/28 Monday - Easy-Effort with the double stroller: 6.62 mi, 01:00 @ 09:03 avg pace.

03/29 Tuesday - Speed Intervals: (Treadmill) 4 mi 00:32 08:00 pace. 3 x 1k @ 6:46/mile pace.

03/30 Wednesday -  Strength Training: Side lunges, hip raises, leg raises, bridges. 7 x 1:00 plank variations.

03/31 Thursday - Tempo Run: 6.28 mi 00:51 08:07 pace 2 x 2.25 miles @ half marathon pace: 7:27, 7:36. .5 mile recovery jog in between.

04/01 Friday - Easy-Effort with double stroller: 5.04 mi 00:46 09:04 pace It's Spring! April Fool's... it snowed 2 inches. I hope the warm weather returns soon. 2:00 extended arm from plank. 5 x 1:00 plank variations.

04/02 Saturday - 10k Time Trial: 9.26 mi, 01:13, 07:51 avg pace. WU, 10k TT @ 7:35/mile, CD. The icy roads returned and the north wind was going strong. My CamelBak's mouthpiece froze around mile 6. Brrrr! I want the shorts weather back, please.

04/03 Sunday - Off.

Total Mileage: 31.20 miles

Do you feel anxious before a competition or performance?
What is your best coping strategy?

Linking up with Holly and Tricia's Weekly Wrap Up.


  1. I used to get nervous, but not so much anymore. I have to speak in front of people all the time at work and I have learned coping skills through that. Most people are too worried about themselves to be thinking of you and how you may feel !

    Also, taking up yoga really helped.

    1. Learning the coping skills definitely helps to make the situation easier! I had a similar experience with public speaking... used to dread it and now it's not so bad :)

  2. These are great tips! I'm getting butterflies thinking about my half marathon coming up so thank you! :)

    1. You're welcome and enjoy your upcoming half!

  3. LOVE LOVE LOVE this!!!

    I often get butterflies even after I know thatI have trained well.

    I often have to readjust my goals.


  4. Those are great tips! I'm so terrible at #5, too. I tend to hang onto my goals for dear life, and that is not a good thing!

    I'm relatively calm before races, because I do trust my training. Performing? That's a different story. I don't do it anymore, but I used to be in choir & in orchestra.

  5. With my first 50K on tap this weekend, your tips on calming butterflies was perfect timing! I think it's good to get that nervous feeling before a big race. The day I don't get that feeling it's time to find a new hobby. But I also do not want it to completely consume me.

    How nice of Mother Nature to play that April Fools joke on you! Thank goodness you moved your 18 miler to last week!

    1. I love that, Meagan ---> "The day I don't get that feeling it's time to find a new hobby."

      A healthy dose of nerves is a good thing!

  6. Amy I still get nervous about running races no matter how small a race, long, short, local or big city. It just happens. I love your tips and I think number 1 is very important. Visualize success! I try and think about crossing the finish line! Thanks for joining us in Weekly Wrap again! :) Sharing these great tips too!

    1. Mind over matter! It's amazing how much power our mental game has :)

  7. I played the piano at church for years. I still have dreams about not being ready, not knowing what the choir was singing, and having to walk out there and play anyway. Isn't that funny? I think #5 is so important. You never know what the variables on any given day will be. Thanks for linking with us Amy.

    1. Haha! One of my "scary dreams" is showing up to church without my music or without my glasses! How cool that you were a church pianist, too!

  8. Great tips and a great workout week for you! I've been racing for years, but on race morning I still feel those familiar butterflies. I keep signing up for races, though, because I have so much fun racing.

    1. Exactly, Tina! The joy of racing is worth battling the butterflies for sure :)


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

#RuntheYear 2022 + Knockaround Slingshot Snow Goggle Review

A Gentle Feast: Cycle 1 Term 1 & 2

Race Report: Fargo Marathon 2023