How to Prepare Your Body for Race Day
It’s the night before your big race. You have put in the training, the mental preparation, the long runs, and you’re feeling confident and ready to go.
But there is one last thing you need to do to make sure you have the best chance of success—prepare your body for race day.
Whether you’re a first-time marathoner or a seasoned veteran, race day is always a big day.
There’s so much to think about and prepare for that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. However, if you want to have a successful and injury-free running experience, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Get A Good Night’s Sleep!
Getting enough sleep is crucial for both mental and physical preparation on race day. When we sleep, our bodies repair damaged tissue, replenish energy stores, and release hormones that contribute to muscle growth.
A lack of sleep can lead to impaired coordination and reaction time, decreased endurance, and increased fatigue—none of which are ideal conditions for running a race!
So be sure to get 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep in the nights leading up to your big race.
It’s race day.
Now you are finally ready to toe the line. Here are some tips from a Sports Specialist Physiotherapist on how to minimise the risk of suffering an injury on race day.
Here are some essential tips for race day:
Warm Up Properly
One of the most common injuries on race day is a muscle strain. This can often be prevented by warming up properly.
You wouldn’t start a long car journey without warming up the engine first, and your body is no different.
Warming up properly helps increase your heart rate and prepare your muscles for the strenuous activity ahead. A good warm-up should last for at least 20 minutes and include a mix of walking, jogging, and dynamic stretching.
Dynamic stretching is a type of stretching that involves moving your joints and muscles through their full range of motion. This contrasts with static stretching, which is when you hold a stretch in one position for an extended period of time. Dynamic stretching is much more effective at preparing your body for physical activity than static stretching, so be sure to incorporate it into your warm-up routine.
One of the biggest mistakes that runners make on race day is starting out too fast. The adrenaline is flowing and it’s tempting to just let loose, but resist the urge! If you go out too fast, you’ll quickly tire yourself out and increase your risk of injury. Instead, start slow and steady, then pick up the pace as you get warmed up. This will help you maintain a consistent speed and prevent you from hitting the wall later on.
Hydrate & Refuel Regularly
What you eat and drink leading up to a race can have a big impact on how you perform on race day. Staying hydrated and refuelling your body with energy is crucial if you want to avoid hitting the wall during the race.
Make sure to drink plenty of fluids in the days leading up to the race and carry a water bottle with you on race day. And don’t forget to eat! Consuming energy gels or other snacks during the race will help keep your energy levels up so you can finish strong.
To feel your best, aim to eat foods that are high in carbohydrates and low in fat. In the hours leading up to your race, avoid foods that are high in fibre or fat, as these can cause gastrointestinal issues during exercise. Complex carbohydrates like whole grains will give you sustained energy over a long period of time, whereas simple carbs like lollies will give you a quick burst of energy followed by an inevitable crash.
Listen to Your Body & Pace Yourself Accordingly
No two runners are alike, so it’s important to listen to your body and adjust your pace accordingly. If you’re feeling good, pick up the pace a bit. But if you’re starting to feel tired, back off and take it easy for a while. The goal is to find a comfortable pace that you can sustain for the entire race without wearing yourself out too much.
Be mindful of your Surroundings
Be aware of your surroundings on race day and try to avoid any obstacles that could trip you up or cause you to fall. Water puddles, uneven pavement, or even other runners can all be potential hazards. Pay attention to where you are running and try to stay aware of what is around you.
Know Your Limits and Don’t Overdo It
It is important to know your limits on race day. If you start to feel pain or discomfort, slow down or stop altogether. It is better to finish the race a little later than planned than it is to risk further injury by pushing through the pain barrier. Trust your body and listen to what it is telling you.
Pushing through the pain will only make things worse and could lead to an injury that sidelines you for weeks or even months. Trust us, it’s not worth it!
Race day is always an exciting but stressful time for runners. However, by following these essential tips, you can ensure that your experience is successful and injury-free.
Remember to warm up properly with a light jog followed by some dynamic stretching; fuel your body with complex carbs, stay hydrated, start slow; and get 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep in the nights leading up to your big race.
With your body properly prepared, you’ll be ready to take on anything come race day!