The behaviors many runners display prior to the gun going off can range from absolute artistry to absolute absurdity. Imagine somebody (or you are that somebody) who can only play successfully after tying their left shoe, then the right, then immediately checking the laces over one more time. I have a thing where I always pin my race bib to my singlet first-as straight as possible-then get out my shoes and put the chip slowly on my right shoe. When it comes to bigger races, like a points race or a marathon, my routine is a little more ceremonial. The night before, and always right after a pasta dinner, the bib pinning and chip attachment commences: singlet-right shoe-try on-straighten.
Many individuals I know like to listen to a certain band or song before competing. Maria Mutola, a former 800 meter Olympian, would always listen to Bob Marley’s “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” before races, getting her in the “right mood” to compete. Before the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona Mutola’s response to finishing fifth was due not to fatigue or lack of speed, but to a relative lack of “pre race rituals and mental preparation”. Swimmer Gary Hall, Jr. is another visible example, who always appears for races in a boxing robe and commences with his signature shadow box routine. Former NBA star Nick Van Exel would always say a silent prayer before pre-game intros.
Obviously, these routines or rituals can be elaborate or as understated as you want them to be. What works for one will likely not work for another. I myself prefer something edgy and with attitude versus Bob Marley for racing. Routines may be brief or lengthy-involving multiple steps, for example a specific warm-up sequence or repeating a set of affirmations. In his article on the subject of routines, Josh Clark mentions that there is often something soothing and calming about having a go-to, predictable sequence of events before competing. A routine gives an individual a sense of normalcy and control in an otherwise anxiety or at the very least high-energy situation. It is in our best interest to remain some sense of calmness and relaxation, especially before longer events.
In short, there really is no long way to formulate a pre-competition routine. You know you’re on to something when you feel that general sense of control and relaxation before and during big games or races, and that sense carries you on to achieving consistent satisfactory results.
Clark, J. 2001. Pre-Race Rituals.
Ungerleider, S. 2003. Mental Training for Peak Performance.