S-E-X and Pre-Race Nerves
Pre-race nerves can threaten your race if you let them get the best of you. And while managing them can be easier said than done, all it might take is a fresh look at your pre-race routines to come up with a new strategy to calm down.
Without some coping strategies, you might find yourself defeated before the gun goes off, and consequently will not rise to your capabilities of having a great race. There are a number of resources available to help you with open water angst, and other pre-race jitters, in fact, at D3, we recommend checking in with our mental skills expert, Will Murray. But I’d like to leave those skills to him because what I want to know is …
Will sexual relations the night before your race help with nerves?
Male or female, I’m talking about everyone. What does sex do to you the night before a race?
I’ve learned that the amount of energy required for such bedroom training sessions is about as much as walking up two flights of stairs, or 25-50 calories. Your glycogen stores will not be depleted. (2) I promise! And if you can’t handle walking up two flights of stairs to get some relaxation, you’re probably not tapered enough to race.
Evidence suggests that hormones do not change negatively during bedroom training sessions and can be eliminated as any concern that would affect your race, in fact, it looks like it could enhance race day performance. In men, testosterone peaks after 7 days of abstinence, but then dramatically falls after 30 days (if you don't use it, you lose it). Yet after such training, there are no acute changes that either increase or decrease your testosterone, but rather a gradual rebuild of testosterone occurs. (1) In women, sexual activity releases pain-blocking endorphins which can help mitigate sore muscles.(2)
Studies have actually been conducted with the greatest athletes of all time about their advocating for a bedroom training session before a big event. From Muhammed Ali to Joe Namath to Pele and Jimmy Riccitello they are noted as saying respectively no, yes, yes and yes. (3,4) So unless you are in a contact sport, it appears that you get their support for going for gold in the bedroom before an event. It is acceptable, suggested, and maybe even required for improved race performance.
Now, let's get this straight. It’s not the same if you fly solo on an evening training session. It’s not the same emotional, relaxed confidence building session. However, you might not have a choice so here is some advice.
If you need to relax and fall asleep, take two melatonin and I’ll see you at the start line. If you travel solo to races and a partner might not be right there alongside you, I do not recommend finding a new bedroom training partner the night before the race. Even if I was 23 and unmarried - no, thank you! You don't need new saddle sores or to wake up with a flat the next morning because someone let all the air out of your tires. Be smart, not desperate. Casey Stengel, the legendary coach of the New York Yankees, who said, "It isn't sex that wrecks these guys, it's staying up all night looking for it."
Let's get a little specific about this training session. How long should the session last before pre-race benefits are achieved? Will 3 minutes, 8 minutes, 20 minutes be sufficient? My conclusion is, whatever, it doesn't matter! If you wind up with a TSS (training stress score) score of 3, maybe an IF (intensity factor) score of .95 or even 1.5 (if it was amazing), it's all good. I hope you know I'm joking at this point and are not actually going to try and calculate either of these.
If you’re so focused on a race that you cannot relax and unwind, then do yourself a favor and indulge. It's not selfish to take time for yourself to relax, in fact, everyone around you will appreciate the calmer you. A calmer you means a smoother race day and you will be able to better adapt to all of the conditions a race can toss at you. There's one caveat to all of this. Like your nutrition and other race strategies, don't try anything new the night before the race.
Coach Jim believes that every one of us has the capacity to improve our efficiency, get stronger and run, bike or swim faster. Sure, it takes time, dedication and discipline but it’s possible.