As we come upon race season in many parts of the country, you may be thinking of finally taking that big step from couch potato to a runner. Or you may already be a casual runner—running several times a week as part of your fitness routine and want to see how good you truly are.
People who run races are always looking for that extra edge over their competitors. The thing is, there is no definitive answer to what the best way to prepare for a race is. There are many different opinions, and then there is trial and error. Here are a few race tips on how you can prepare, whether it be a 5k or a marathon.
If you’re experienced or entering your first race, it takes some dedication and a lot of preparation if you want to cross that finish line. For a new or casual runner, shorter races such as a 5K is a good choice for your first race. It won’t take you as long to train for a 5K as it does for distance race like a marathon and it’s also inexpensive. You’ll probably need about 6 weeks to prepare. Training for a half marathon should take you about four months while you may need close to six months for a marathon.
Whether you’re running in a 5K Race, half marathon or a marathon, there are several things you can do to better prepare yourself before the big day.
Get adequate sleep
A bit of sleep helps! No matter your race experience, try to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep during your training—if that’s what your body requires—throughout your training and the day before your race. Some people require more extra sleep than that; some require less. Do what works best for you. A sleepless night can make you feel sluggish, groggy and dull. You want to be alert and ready to go on race day.
Experienced runners will tell you that preparation is critical. It doesn’t matter the distance your race will cover, you want to practice and be prepared as well. Run several times a week to condition your body. Also, determine ahead of time what your fueling strategies will be—do you need water or a nutritional bar ahead of time? Just as important, know the type of clothes you will wear. Some people’s skin will get agitated by certain types of fabric. Make sure you don’t have that issue on race day or you’’ll be in for a miserable time.
Set a performance goal and a backup goal
If you may have a goal that you want to achieve but you might not be feeling 100% or the weather may not be cooperative. There are so many things out of your control that you should always have a goal and a backup goal. For example, it may be pouring down rain on the day of the race. As a result, you probably won’t be running the time you want to but there could be a secondary finish time you may want to achieve.
Eat right on the day of the race
The day of the big race is here! You may have had complex carbohydrates the night before, but what are you going to eat during the race? Your body needs the energy level to keep going, but it can’t store energy as it can with glycogen. When you run, you burn through your glycogen and need to replenish it as soon as possible. You can use glucose, dextrose, or honey, but be sure that what you use is safe for you.
Hydrate before and during
As a runner, you want to avoid dehydration. Plain old water is the best way to go. Drinking plenty of water or even an electrolyte drink will prevent you from overheating on race day. Take a drink about 30 minutes before you run and then small sips throughout the race when your mouth is dry.
Warm up gradually
As race day approaches, you should start to slowly get into the habit of waking up several minutes earlier than usual. This should help with the morning stiffness and getting the blood flowing. On the day of the race, you should do the same thing. When you wake up get up slowly and then do 10 minutes of light stretching to help loosen the muscles.
Also, be sure to mimic the movements you’ll encounter in the race itself. If you’re running a 5K, for example, your warm-up should include some short sprints, quick steps, fast walking, and jogging. This will warm up your muscles and joints, but will also get your heart pumping and your lungs working.
Stay upbeat and positive
Maintain a positive attitude during your training and leading up to your actual race. A positive mental attitude can help you overcome challenging situations.
Pre-race jitters are common on race morning. It’s just a normal part of any competition. It also means you care greatly about your performance and want to do well. Stay calm and be relaxed. One way you can do this is run with music you enjoy. Music allows you to think about something else other than the task at hand.
Finally, don’t try to set a land speed record in your first mile out. You have plenty of time. Go slow and gradually increase your stride until you’re settled in your normal training pace.
Talk to your doctor
Before training for any road race, we recommend talking to your doctor. He or she may have some running suggestions that suit your needs and address any possible limitations.