9 Tips to Prepare for a Race

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Race season is upon us. Runners will be supporting charities, raising awareness for diseases and getting covered in paint. Whether you just signed up for your first 5k or are a seasoned marathoner, here are nine quick tips to consider when preparing for race day.

Give yourself more than enough time to train 
Racing isn’t like cramming for an exam. You need time to build your strength, endurance and speed without overworking your body. Take at least six weeks to train for a 5k, eight weeks for a 10k, 10 weeks for a 15k, 12 weeks for a half marathon, and 12-20 weeks for a marathon. Ideally, you would train for much longer if you aren’t experienced.

Fuel Up
What you eat the night before a race is as important, if not more important, than what you eat the day of. Create a carb-rich meal for your dinner. This will prepare your muscles by storing most of the carbs as glycogen – your body’s most easily accessible source of energy. Keep the fatty and protein-rich foods to a minimum, as they fill you up quicker than carbs and take longer to digest. Carb-loading will also help you avoid “hitting the wall” during the race.

Set out everything you need the night before
There is nothing worse than waking up to discover that your lucky running pants are still wet in the wash and you’re missing your left shoe. It will throw off your entire mantra. Pack your bag and lay out your gear on a chair the night before, or even days before.

Set two alarms
Not only could hitting snooze too many times be detrimental for missing your time slot, waking up late will set you in a panic and effect your mood for the entire race. You also risk the chance of not having the alarm go off at all. Prepare for the morning and have a backup alarm in order to get to the race on time.

Trust your training 
“I should have ran more.” “I should have trained just one more week.” “I should not be here.” Let the running demons go, you have worked too hard. To second-guess all of your early morning runs, ice packs and saving up for the perfect sports bra would be a waste. Even if this doesn’t convince you, crossing the finish line will add some perspective.

Wear gear you’ve worn before
From your head to your toes, make sure that you have given your gear some love before race day. Your shoes should have a few miles on them so they’re broken in and familiar, but not completely worn and falling off your feet. Your pants/shorts, shirt and bra should have a few workouts in them. The “new clothes feel” might be nice, but to avoid chaffing or any potential malfunctions, this could be your safest bet.

Get to the race early
Give yourself enough time to register, warm-up, use the restroom and get to the starting line. Your whole race will consist of running, so why rush before you even begin?

Stay hydrated
Pretending that you’re a camel and drinking a gallon of water before a race is a common mistake with runners. Our bodies use what they need and get rid of the rest (urine production also slows down mid-race). Find a balance. As long as you haven’t been experiencing extreme dehydration, drink enough water until you don’t feel thirsty anymore before a race. Not drinking enough can lead to headaches, cramps and exhaustion. The most important tip here is to listen to your body.

Warm up before a race, stretch after
Although the adrenaline of a race makes you want to run out of the gates as quickly as possible, don’t. If you don’t warm up, you are setting yourself up for pulled muscles, strained tendons and joints, and starting out at a pace you can’t sustain. Eventually, you will just slow down and become exhausted quicker than usual, which will discourage you to finish. Take at least 10 minutes to avoid this. Although being sore is inevitable, stretch after to make sure your muscles can handle rolling out of bed the next day.

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