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 love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!