Newswise — Marathons are as much about what goes on in runners’ heads as what goes on with their bodies.

To that end, Dr. Douglas Mann, an associate professor in the Health and Exercise Science Department at Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey, will address race-day anxiety at the Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon & Half-Marathon, and he is organizing the first Garden State “psyching team” to help competitors cope with anxiety associated with running the race.

He will speak, and the psyching team will be onsite, on Friday and Saturday, April 24 and 25, the first two days of the three-day event to be held in Long Branch, New Jersey, near the Monmouth Race Track.

According to Mann, psyching teams help runners build life skills and develop strategies to deal with the uncertainties of racing.

Mann, 44, is himself a runner who has completed one marathon, several half marathons and several triathlons. Working with him on the psyching team will be Dr. Michael Zito, a licensed psychologist who focuses on clinical and sport psychology, and Dr. JoAnne Bullard, an instructor in Rowan’s Health and Exercise Science Department. His wife, Neeli Mann, also a runner, will assist. Their services will be free of charge.

“Our goal is not to provide therapy,” he said. “It really is to provide life skills and someone to talk with.” The team also will provide printed information on race-day anxiety.

Added Mann, who has conducted research on stress and the athletic industry, “As a runner I have come across people – not a tremendous amount, but enough – who have so much anxiety about running races that it becomes debilitating. They are very good runners who don’t perform well. Our goal is to help them cope.”

***Mann provides these tips for dealing with race-related anxiety:

1. Practice breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing exercises are very useful in calming nerves and supplying oxygen during running.

2. Prepare mentally for the race. You spend so much time running and preparing physically, yet a large percentage of how well you do is mental.

3. Practice power posing. Power posing, such as standing tall in a position of dominance, can lead to lower levels of stress hormones in the bloodstream.

4. Investigate the cause of your anxiety. Seek counseling to gain a better understanding of what may cause your race anxiety.

5. Practice daily and written affirmations. Use your inner voice to speak positively, and write daily affirmations to yourself.

6. Stop criticizing yourself. Many people with anxiety are their own worst critics while being extremely supportive of others. Stop the negative talk and support yourself as much as, if not more than, you support others.