Are you ready to race your 5K? These Race Preparation Tips help make sure you maximize your training efforts.
You made the decision to do it. You found a training plan and you put the work in. Now you’re ready to run! No matter how good your training has been, poorly preparing for your race can derail your efforts and throw you off course. According to Athlinks, I’ve run 63 races — 35 of which were half or full marathons. That’s a lot of start and finish lines and many miles of pavement in between. Some better than expected, some not so good — but a solid race prep strategy and post recovery plan can make all the difference when it comes to running a happy race. Read on for my top tips to prepare the night before, morning of and the best way to recover after you fly through the finish line.
Race Preparation Tips: The Night Before
- Get your zzz’s: And in fact, not just the night before but 2 nights before. Sometimes race gitters will get the best of you and keep you a bit restless overnight. For a Sunday morning race, both your Friday and Saturday nights’ sleep are critical.
- Organize: Lay out all your race gear: bib/chip + pins, your outfit and any other gear like hat, ipod, belt or gloves you may need. This will help you sleep better knowing everything is laid out and save you precious morning minutes.
- Eat well: You’ll want to make sure you have a healthy meal full of complex carbohydrates and protein. For a 5K, there is no need to go overboard with a giant “carbo load” meal of pasta – that last thing you want is to be too full and bloated in the morning.
- Visualize: when you hit the sack, spend 5 minutes visualizing the next morning. Waking up on time, putting on your gear, seamlessly getting to the start line, running your heart out and crossing the finish line strong, proud and happy. If you can see it, you can do it.
Race Preparation Tips: The morning of
- Relax: You did the work, now go have fun! Race day is often a crapshoot and there is so much out of your control at this point. The traffic, weather, parking, etc. can go in your favor or not – your best bet is to stay happy and positive on your way to the start line.
- Eat well: You’ll want a little something light in your stomach to give you easy energy for your run. Nothing to heavy or high in protein, fiber or fat. Oatmeal, bananas, toast – these are all good options. Depending on your size, everybody’s meal will be different, but you shouldn’t need more than 150-250 calories and get it down about an hour before you run.
- Be Nice: Start lines can get very congested and some people are a bit competitive. If you know you’re going to walk or jog your race, line up towards the back of the pack so you don’t get run over. Talk to people, some people go alone, so having the camaraderie of fellow runners makes everybody day better.
Post race recovery:
- Celebrate: First and foremost – pat yourself on the back! Hug your training buddies and give every stranger you see a high 5! It’s a big deal to get out there and run and everybody should feel good at the post race party no matter how things went down on the course.
- Cool down and stretch: With all the excitement at the end, don’t forget to walk it off. Check out the vendor booths and keep on moving to let your body cool down. Don’t forget your regular stretches – this may prevent some unnecessary soreness.
- Refuel: After a race you will want to refuel. But again, don’t over do it. The average runner burns about 300 calories in a 5K, so packing on post race treats can add up faster than you think. Look for something with a mix of carbohydrate to replace lost glycogen and protein for muscle repair.
- Treat Yourself: Do something really nice for yourself because you earned it. Maybe a manicure/pedicure, foot/body massage or even just a hot bath. Take at least the time you spent on the course to yourself later in the day to relive how the race it went down and pamper yourself just a bit. Think about what went well and what you would do differently next time.
Be Smart. Be Safe. Have Fun. Get FIT!
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