Put pre-race nerves to rest with our simple, failsafe tips to crossing the line (relatively) pain free.
Whether you’re a plucky first-timer or a seasoned veteran, closing in on the start line of any race is daunting. The list of dos, don’ts and what ifs can be exhausting, which is exactly what you want to avoid before a competition. And so, this is our plan to put your whirring nerves to rest. Keep it simple and not only will you cross the line with a smile on your face, but the days and weeks after will be a darn sight more comfortable, too. You’re very welcome.
Two Weeks Out
Taper Your Workload
The taper is a critical phase in any endurance event, but too many people see this as a time to stop training completely and recover. You should definitely not do that. Sorry. The two weeks leading into race day is a great chance to drop your overall volume, allowing your body to absorb the weeks of endless miles you’ve put it through, whilst keeping up intensity, explains Elite Trainer and running expert, Alfie Wren. Shorter, faster runs will maintain your fitness levels while ensuring your muscles are operating at 100% on the big day.
Finalise Your Nutrition Tactics
A good fuelling plan for your race will not only help you get to the finish line but can easily see you beat your personal best. Aim for 60-90 grams of carbohydrates per hour in the race either through sports drinks or energy gels. Work out which you prefer in these final two weeks. Gels don’t agree with everyone and can sit uncomfortably in your stomach – which is not something you want to find out at mile 10. Extra tip: make sure to drink water with your gel to help it absorb better, says Wren.
Get Hard Core
As your running volume starts to decrease shift some of your focus on boosting your core strength, suggests Wren. A strong core will not only help you run faster but will reduce your risk of injury. Holding yourself upright over 26.2 miles taxes your core and, like your legs, it can fatigue. But you probably won’t notice. Instead, other areas of your body will start to compensate and change your running style and potentially put stress on other muscles and joints. Start adding planks and deadbugs to your workouts for a core that can carry you the distance.
Time Your Breakfast
Breakfast is essential, but don’t leave it until within an hour of the race beginning. Instead, set your alarm a little earlier and give yourself 3 hours between bowl of porridge and run time. Not only will this avoid any stomach cramps, this will also allow your body to fully digest the carbs and have energy in spades to drip feed your muscles when the going gets tough.
Remember To Warm Up
It’s very easy to forget how important a good warm up is before a race and the performance benefits it can have. Give yourself enough time before the race to get your heart rate up and your body moving, ready for the race to come. More than just jumping on the spot, try lunges to turn on your legs muscles and open your hips, and then find some space to do sets of deadbugs and glute bridges. This will switch on your new-found core muscles to keep you stable and fire up your strong backside muscles to power you through the first miles.
Cross The Line …
…And hit the bath. Once you get home the tub should be your first port of call. Some people may add Epsom salts or oils, others may prefer some Matey bubbles, candlelight and Michale Buble playing in the background. The most important thing for your recovery though is to make it hot. Heat is good for increased blood flow and blood brings oxygen and nutrients into the muscles for recovery, explains Sports Scientist and resident Sports Masseuse, Petrus De Jager.
Give your body a few days rest so that the worst soreness is gone and then book in for a sports massage at the gym. Massage can get blood flow into all the muscles of the body better as you can apply specific pressure to tight and knotted areas where it is hard to get to yourself, says De Jager. 15 minutes on a foam roller at home won’t cut it, we’re afraid.
Go A Little Deeper
After your massage it’s also worth following up with the gym’s in-house osteopath. Your joints take the impact and dissipate the forces from running, and that impact can take a toll over the course of a long distance race. There are lots of joints to look after, too. For example, there are 35 joints in the foot and ankle, three in the knee, five in the hip and pelvis, and five in the lower back.
Osteopaths can assess whether any of these joints are stiff or injured, and whether they will prevent you from fully recovering and returning to running at your full potential. They articulate each of these joints to reduce stiffness, increase blood flow as well as the range of movement in each joint, reveals in-house Osteopath Jonathan Bailey-Teyletche. When combined with massage techniques and advice on appropriate footwear and stretching, the osteo can put you on the path to full recovery. Until next year, that is.