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Cue Words & Phrases: Mental Strategies for Race Day

Have you ever gotten to that point in a race where you feel like you need something to get you through? Something to focus on, think about, give you energy, etc.?


Our mind is a powerful machine, and it can convince us of what we can do OR it can easily take the path of least resistance and tell us that we should quit to protect ourselves. Think - the angel and the devil on your shoulders. Throughout a race, you will deal with both that angel and devil many times. You will have moments where you feel great and feel like you could do this all day! All smiles and having fun. And then you will have the moments where you are tired, ready to be done and questioning why you are doing this. Those are the moments that we need a reinforcement to our brain that we can get through this!


A tactic that I like to use is Cue Words/Phrases. I like to pick a few words or a phrase that resonate with me that I know will pull me from negative thoughts and hard moments and back into the good and positive moments.


My personal cue words / phrases are “I am unstoppable” and “I am resilient.” I write these on my arm before my races as a reminder they are there with me. When I get to the points in the race that I’m not feeling the best or start to doubt myself, I repeat these affirmations in my head for a little while. This usually helps me snap out of the negativity and even forget how I’m feeling. It’s a nice little reset that I am strong, have trained for this and can keep on keepin’ on.



How do you develop your Cue Words/Phrases?

  • Cue Phrases (motivational phrases)

    • Pick a word or phrase that resonates with you and reminds you of your goal.

  • “I am” statements

    • What can you remind yourself that will help you snap out of negative thoughts?

  • Positive Affirmations

    • Positive affirmations are positively loaded phrases, or statements that are used to challenge unhelpful or negative thoughts.

I have found from all the races that I have run, that we spend more mental energy when we feel “not great” and focusing on that and how we should proceed rather than refocusing our energy and adjusting the plan if needed.


Prior to your race and even big workouts, it is a good idea to mentally prepare. Think about the different stages of the race and how you will feel. How will you respond if your legs feel heavy, or if you can’t seem to hold your goal pace? Not sure how to go about this? An easy place to start is to think about what you have done during workouts/runs that weren’t going well - how did you get through them? Playing through these scenarios in your head prior to race day is so important because you will be ready to respond, almost as if you have been in that situation before.


Hopefully these mental strategies are helpful to you and can make a difference in your next race or hard workout!


Tag us on social media in your photos if you end up writing your Cue Words/Phrases down on race day! @risereigntraining


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