Whilst racing isn't on the horizon for me, it is for many of you. When preparing for an upcoming event, whether it be a race on the road, such as a marathon or 10k, or a big cross country race, it is important to consider how you can get yourself feeling fresh for race day.
Here is what I do in the week ahead of a big race to get myself feeling fresh, both physically and mentally.
For a major race, one that I am putting all my focus in to, such as when I was preparing for the Commonwealth Games, I would usually do my last full session about 6 days before race day. This gives me plenty of time to recover ahead of race day and get rid of any lingering fatigue. I then do a reduced/half session 3-4 days before race days. This reminds the legs that the can still move quickly, but it is not enough to fill them with fatigue and tiredness. The effect of this session is to put confidence into you, without making you too tired. I have had many a time where I have felt awful in this smaller session, but raced better than I had expected. So this session is really just about moving the body to feel, and not forcing anything. If you’re feeling slightly tired, ease off. There is nothing to gain at this moment.
I also reduce the length and speed of my runs slightly. For example, from about 5 days out, my runs drop roughly by 5 minutes a day. The day before, I only run for 20-30 minutes depending on the length of the race the next day. Again, this just stretches the legs without tiring them. All of my easy runs are done to feel, so I go as easy as I need to in order to let my legs freshen up. You have nothing to gain at this moment, only lose, so going easy will only be beneficial.
Sleep is important at all times, but even more so on race week. Not only does sleep allow you to recover properly and get you feeling fresh, but it also prevents you from getting run down. Getting run down increases your risk of catching something, or becoming over tired and not recovering properly. Therefore, getting plenty of sleep is vital. Try to aim for 8-9 hours if you can, as this will ensure your body is ready to give its all.
This comes under a similar umbrella to maximising your sleep, but recover as well as possible. When I say this, I mean focus on the 1%’s. I always make sure I am stretching, foam rolling and using the massage gun (if you have one). Some people also like to get a light massage to freshen up the legs a few days out from the race. However, if you have not done this before, I would not recommend doing so ahead of your next big race.
This point is one of the most important of all as it can make or break how ready you are for race day. Fuel yourself with plenty of food, as you’ll need it come race day. Fuel not only allows your muscles to repair and strengthen, but it also gives you the energy you need to perform at your best. Fuel is the leading force behind all my other points as it allows you to sleep well and recover well. It is the energy that fires our engine, and without it, like a car, we can’t run. Therefore, whilst you may be doing less running in your race week, you need to fuel yourself just as much.
Race day will take care of itself on the day. The more you think about it a week out, or 4 days out, the more you are simply wasting precious energy. Overthinking can cause you to become overly nervous and mentally tire you. If you put the race in a box, and don’t open the box until the day arrives, you allow the positive nerves to store up for race day and release when they will have a beneficial effect. Nerves are a good thing, and if you can keep them under wraps until race day, the adrenaline will give you that extra edge, meaning you will be more ready than ever.
Write down confident thoughts.
This is something I did the day before racing at the Commonwealth Games and it made my feel more ready than I ever thought. In a notepad, I wrote down the confident thoughts that I wanted to remember during the race. I told myself that I was strong, that I had more in me than I realised, that I deserved to be on that start line, and that I was ready for whatever the race would throw at me. Doodling these ideas cemented them in my mind and filled up any space where doubt could creep in. Therefore, when I stepped on the start line, only confident thoughts were written in my mind and I felt ready to go.
If you have a race coming up, I hope this helps you prepare for it as well as you can. If it does, drop me a message and let me know how you got on!
I’ve been called a dreamer. I’ve been told that my outlook on life isn’t realistic at times. That sometimes I need to prepare for life to not go as I hope. But why should I? What does this achieve?
If you can see it, you can believe it.
Whether it’s a race, an exam, or something I want to achieve in general life, I am a firm believer in visualisation. If I can tell myself an event will play out in a particular way, and I can actually visualise it happening in my mind, my brain believes it is possible. It allows my mind to develop a confidence it did not previously have as it feels as though it has done it before. If I have gone through the event in my mind before it has actually happened, I feel the outcome is more likely to be as I saw it.
Power of positive thinking.
Some people may not believe in visualisation. They may think it is slightly far fetched or pointless, but it really isn’t. Even if visualising the event playing out positively doesn’t directly affect the outcome, it sort of does. Ultimately, if this provides you with the confidence to dive straight in and be confident that it is going to go as you hope, it has done something powerful. This is the power of positive thinking. Without visualising an event playing out exactly as you’d like it to, you may have doubts flooding through your mind. You may be questioning what if this happens and I can’t deal with it, what if it all falls apart, but if you visualise yourself dealing positively and confidently with those outcomes, you are prepared for anything to happen. As a result, if the outcome you didn’t wish for starts to occur, you have the confidence and strength to deal with it, something that is already making it more likely that things will take a turn for the better.
See it to believe it.
Ultimately, the only way something will ever happen, is if you believe it will. If you don’t, it will never happen, because you have created space for doubt in your mind. This will automatically make you more cautious, and less confident, two emotions that are not conducive to the outcomes you desire occurring. Therefore, if you can envisage everything happening exactly as you want it to, you are already one step closer to achieving it. If you believe it is possible, then it is.
When do I employ visualisation?
Visualisation is an important part of my daily life. It is what keeps me motivated towards achieving my dreams. If each day, I can see myself achieving them, then I am going to keep going when times get tough. This even extends to during injury. Even though I might have reached a hurdle, I can still see my dreams unfolding in the future, therefore I will keep working hard to achieve them, no matter what, in all aspects of my life. When times test you, keep that sight clear and keep dreaming.
What this does do, is keep you positive and confident that your dreams will come true. So, whatever your dream is, keep it in your thoughts at all times, and visualise yourself achieving it. If you believe it, you’re already 99% more likely to achieve it than if you don’t.
If you’re ever called a dreamer, take it as a compliment, because it means you have the belief in yourself that anything is possible.
I’m now at week 9 of injury, and I’ll be honest, it feels like it’s been a lot longer than just over 2 months. The weeks are however ticking by, and I am just taking each day as it comes. I am focusing on MY journey, and no one else’s.
How is the foot?
Last week I went for a follow up scan to check how the fracture was getting on. The good news is it is healing well. The bad news is, it isn’t healed yet. Therefore it’s going to be a little longer before I can get back running.
Mentally I had prepared myself for it to be healed, which I shouldn’t have done. No injury recovery is linear, and 6-8 weeks is just an estimated guess. Therefore it wasn’t ever a given that it would be healed at 8 weeks. It may be for someone who is just looking to be able to walk, but as we are looking to do a lot more on the injury site, I need it to be 100% healed. Once I had got over the initial disappointment, I looked at what I could and couldn’t do, and this is what I’ll be doing for the next month or so.
What can I do?
S&C training. In terms of strength work, I can do body weight exercises, and some exercises with weight going through the foot. I can do exercises such as RDL’s, but I can’t put impact weight through the foot, such as by jumping on it.
In the pool. Aqua jogging continues to be a prominent feature in my life at the moment on a daily basis. Most of my harder sessions are being done in the pool. I find I can get a more running specific session in the pool than I can on the bike and I find I can work all systems at once a lot more efficiently in the pool. I just play around with rep time lengths for sessions, whilst ensuring I have easy days in between to continue to recover.
Spinning the legs. I am also on the static bike in the gym, and I am building this up gradually in order to get a bit more contact to the foot. On a Sunday, I’ll do my ‘long run’ on the bike, just to get a more extended period of exercise in. If it’s a session done and I’m feeling a bit bored, I’ll turn this into a session with longer reps in it.
Be patient. The most important thing I can do at the moment is to be patient. There is no magic fix, and no quick fix. All my foot needs is time, therefore I have to be patient. I’ve set no time frames, no goal races, nothing. Just focusing on healing, then getting back in shape the best (not quickest) way!
What can’t I do?
Due to the follow up scan showing that the fracture isn’t quite healed yet, I am still limiting the amount of weight bearing I am doing on the foot. If I’m walking around for a decent amount of time, I will wear the boot. If I’m just wondering around the house, I’ll wear shoes instead of the boot, as long as I’m not on my feet for a long period of time. If I am just popping to the kitchen or wandering around, I can go bootless, but that’s about it.
The ‘R’ word still doesn’t feature in my life and likely won’t for another month or so. When I look at the journey ahead, I would always rather go an extra week or 2 without running, than risk starting too soon and being back where I started. There is no point in not being conservative. As much as I’d love to run, there is no sense to doing it now, when I still have a broken foot. I’m in it for the long run.
For the next month, I’ll continue to be cautious with the amount of weight going through my foot. I’ll then reassess the situation in a months time and see how everything is going.
Till then, it’s in the pool to keep fit.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!