GB rower Beccy Muzerie shares the race routines that enable her to perform her best on the water
What goes through your head in those precious few minutes sitting at the start line? Your warm-up is finished, some brave volunteer is battling to hold your boat perfectly in line and your bow girl is tapping away to keep you straight. You have checked your gate is tight, taken a last sip of water and fist-bumped your crewmates.
You know you have put in the hours all winter on the water, lifted as much weight as your muscles could handle in the gym and exhausted all Spotify playlists to get through the long ergs.
But are you mentally prepared?
Everyone has different pre-race routines and over the years I have gradually found what works best for me. My prep starts a few days before a race in a quiet corner of a coffee shop, just me and my diary.
“Why am I racing? Why do I put my body through all this? What is your why?”
Sometimes my writing is strategic; I may choose to write about some races I have had with the crew I am about to race with or pick three of my favourite races and recall what I learnt from those experiences. Other times it is like cleaning out my handbag. Just typing whatever comes into my consciousness, laying out all the thoughts and worries I have collected over time, so that my head is clear to focus on the task ahead.
I also spend time reminding myself of my why. Why am I racing? Why I am rowing? Why do I put my body through all this? What is your why? It may sound like a simple question, but it is not something we often stop to consider. And I think it is one of the most important things to spend time working out, because when motivation is super-low or nerves are running super-high, reminding yourself why you are there in the first place can help you complete the task ahead.
“Nerves mean I care – I want to do well and I am ready to go race”
The night before the race I turn to my training diary. Here I write out the race plan and highlight just one or two technical points that I am going to focus on during the race. This is usually easy to pick out from what I have been working on in recent sessions. I then read through my bank of confidence – a list I build throughout the year of things I have done well. This list isn’t just made up of erg scores and times I have won water pieces, but includes positive feedback, reminders of when I have set and achieved a small personal goal, mentions of sessions when the rowing just felt great – anything that gives me confidence.
Then in those strange minutes before boating, where everyone is stretching, triple-checking their kit and running for last-minute toilet trips I listen to a few tunes through my headphones. Songs that remind me of particular moments in my rowing career, songs that remind me that I am not solely relying on my own strength and songs that get me pumped and ready for action.
I still get nervous before racing, but I have learnt to recognise that as a good thing. Nerves mean I care – I want to do well and I am ready to go race.
And in those final moments at the start line before our names are called out across the silent waters and the lights switch from red to green, I thank God for the opportunity. I breathe deeply, remembering that the outcome of the race does not change who I am. That I am not defined by my successes and failures, and that all I need to do is focus on one stroke at a time. I take confidence that I am both physically and mentally prepared to the best of my ability in that moment.
I wiggle my toes in my shoes to feel the footplate against the balls of my feet. I loosen my grip on the handle feeling the water at the end of my blade. I sit still and I know that I am ready.
Photos: Naomi Baker