On Your Mark – Ready For Race Day
A successful race day starts with appropriate preparation and training. Whether you’ve been training for your first couch-to-5K or you hit the race circuit every weekend, summer weather is here and that means plenty of chances to participate in fun walks/runs, competitive 5Ks, half-marathons, triathlons, and cycling events. No one is immune to injury or anxiety, even the most conditioned athletes. It’s important to follow some pre- and post-race guidelines to make competing more enjoyable. Make sure you stay healthy enough to walk, run or bike another day!
Here are some tips to keep in mind as you embark on what may be your first or 50th race!
Set Realistic Goals
Focus on setting a goal that is attainable for you and train for your race with that goal in mind. The best goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant and Time-Bound or Trackable. (Visit Mind Tools for more info on SMART goals.) It may be something as simple as completing, finishing under a specific time or beating a past personal best. You want to make sure that you do not set the bar too high with your goal. If this is your first race, setting too big a goal may lead to feelings of failure and disappointment. After all, just entering and finishing the race is an accomplishment in itself and you should enjoy the entire race day!
Another pointer is to make sure you stick to your own pace during the race. The race itself is going to be hectic. Try not to get sidetracked and perform at another participant’s pace. This may cause you to work harder than you trained for, leading to fatigue and exhaustion at a much faster rate. This can increase the risk of injury or cause you to drop out of the race.
Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
Come up with a nutrition plan for yourself and make sure to stick to the plan during your training and up to race day. This is especially true for any gels, bars, and means of hydration. If it is a longer duration race, you do not want to use a gel or bar for the first time and find out that it does not agree with your stomach. That could be devastating to your performance and take away from all the hard work you put in to prepare and train.
Plan ahead and come up with a meal for the morning of your event. At some point during your training, try to mimic your race-day routine. You want to eat your pre-race meal, go train and then assess how you feel during the training session. Make sure the pre-race meal provides enough calories and energy, where you feel satiated but not too full. Plus, don’t overlook the importance of hydration! Aim to pre-hydrate two hours prior to practice or competition with 16-20 ounces of fluids and another 8-10 ounces after warm-up and stay hydrated throughout the race.
Stretch and Strength Train to Prevent Injuries
Besides going too hard too fast, many running injuries result from improper form, shoes, and stride. Athletes often overlook the importance of flexibility and strength training. Taking time to adequately warm-up and cool down after all runs and races is very important. Daily stretching is essential to improve and maintain flexibility and mobility. Strength training improves a runner’s muscles, ligaments, tendons, and overall athleticism. This can improve form, lead to a consistent gait, and increase endurance. Having strong glutes and core helps improve posture, stabilize the pelvis and legs, and allows you to run with greater control and stability. A short warm-up, including 5-10 minutes of gentle walking, helps the muscles and body prepare. The warm-up can also flush out lactic acid, and prevent delayed muscle soreness. A proper cool down is essential to bringing the body back to a resting level.
Gather your gear
You may have some pre-race jitters, so being prepared can cut down on unnecessary anxiety and stress. Make sure you have everything for the race – shoes, clothes, accessories, sunscreen – a few days prior to the event and try to load what you can and lay out the rest. Hopefully, you have trained in your gear so you feel comfortable and confident in your chosen outfit! Make sure to check the forecast and dress for the weather conditions. You may need to pack rain gear or dress in layers.
Ideally, you’ve been training in your race-day shoes for a few months so they are comfortable and broken in and have an equally capable backup pair. The night before the race you should re-check everything and make sure it is all in one location! No one wants to be running around purchasing last-minute items or frantically looking for something on the morning of the event. You will also want to check all of your gear to make sure it’s functioning properly, especially for a triathlon. This may include checking the air pressure on your bike tires (and having a spare), charging the batteries for your fitness tracker, and making sure your wetsuit or swimsuit still fits.
Rest and Relax
Make sure to get a good night’s sleep the night before race day and the days leading up to the race. Try to do something relaxing but healthy – watch a movie, do some yoga, take a leisurely bike ride, visit with friends sans alcohol – the night before the race to get your mind off it. If you are having any anxiety about getting up on time, set multiple alarm clocks. Also, give yourself plenty of time in the morning so that you are not rushing around. Relax! Ready your mind and body for the upcoming event. If you are traveling to a race, it may be well worth the price of a hotel to know you are close.
Remember, you have put in the time needed and trained hard leading up to race day. The important thing is to relax, have fun and enjoy it! You will do great! Celebrate your hard work and the sense of satisfaction when you cross that finish line!
Serious competitors may want to seek out a running coach or expert to develop a training schedule. An Ivy Rehab therapist can evaluate your running form with a formal running analysis to identify poor foot biomechanics. Get in touch with us to learn more.