Published: Apr. 3, 2013
Updated: Apr. 3, 2013
With so much time and effort invested in your training, you’ll want to do everything you can to ensure your race day goes smooth as well. We’ve got you covered with some essential DOs and DON’Ts from Lacy Jennings, a physical therapist with Duke Sports Medicine.
DO hydrate your body days before the race. Drinking water is important whenever you are running regularly, but it’s even more crucial in the days leading up to the race. “You want your body to be well hydrated when you start,” explains Jennings. It’s critical for running performance and to avoid dehydration, which can cause fatigue, cramping, and decreased concentration. You’ll know you’re drinking enough water if you void pale urine several times per day.
DON’T try anything new. Now is not the time to try out new running shoes, clothes, foods or eating patterns. Follow the routines that worked best for you during your training.
DO watch what you eat. Of course, everyone’s different. But in general, it’s best to eat balanced meals in the days before the race that include whole grains, vegetables and protein. On the eve of the race, load up on carbohydrates like pasta as they’ll give you an energy boost. Don’t overdo it the morning of the race, but don’t skimp either, says Jennings. When she’s running, she’ll eat half a bagel with peanut butter, a banana and water. “Try out what you’ll eat on race day ahead of time to make sure you body tolerates it when you’re running,” she stresses.
DON’T overdo it before race day. If you’re running long distances, you should be decreasing your mileage in the weeks before the race. Take it easy the week of the race, and instead, opt for cross training. If you’re itching to run, stick to short, easy distances. Taper off a day or two before the race to make sure your body is well rested for the run ahead.
DO dress in layers. Unless it’s a warm day, chances are good that race day morning will start off cold, says Jennings. You and the weather will heat up as the race gets underway. Wear a top layer you won’t mind discarding as you run. If it’s raining, a trash bag works great as a poncho.
DON’T let anxiety get the best of you. It’s normal to feel anxious ahead of time. Alleviate the anxiety by downloading the racecourse and familiarizing yourself with the location of parking, water stops and restrooms. Do yoga breathing to relax your body, and get a good night’s sleep. Make sure all your water and energy needs are ready ahead of time. Plan to get to the course an hour early so you don’t stress about parking, you’ll have time to use the restroom, and hydrate.
DO give your body time to recuperate. Once the race is finished, plan to spend time icing and stretching your sore muscles. Reward yourself with a sports massage. “Take a short rest from running until the aches and pains decrease, then slowly get back into it,” says Jennings. If pain or soreness lasts more than five to seven days, contact a health practitioner to determine if the pain is signaling something more serious.