Whether you are gearing up to complete your first competitive run, or are a regular competitor striving to achieve a new personal best, the last 7 days of preparation before race day are crucial to ensure that you perform to the best of your ability.
Depending on the type of race you are taking part in, you’ll have already endured weeks or possibly even months of dedicated training. However, the key in the final week is to make sure that you step up to the starting line feeling fresh legged, punchy, and ready and raring to go.
To provide runners with some expert insight on this, here Dr Courtney Kipps from the Institute of Sport Exercise Health (ISEH), operated by HCA Healthcare UK gives Jogger.co.uk his top tips on how runners can really nail their final week of training…
Get the balance right
There is a common misconception amongst runners that they need to push themselves as hard as possible in their final days of training before a race. However, I am always keen to stress that this approach can be detrimental and could have a negative impact on your race time. Turning up to a race feeling tired is never going to be positive.
However, it is also important to note that going too far the other way, and not training enough in the lead up to a race, can also have a negative effect. After all the hard work, the immediate lead up to the race is not the time to lose the fitness and pace endurance that has been built up over the course of your race preparations.
As a general rule, training in the last seven days should be decreased by around 30%, so you are still working hard but your body also has a chance to rest and feel as fresh as possible by the time race day comes around.
I would also recommend reducing distance training, and instead focus on short, intense sessions. At the start of the week, have one final hard workout so your body is prepared for the upcoming race. Then just keep active, and come race day you’ll feel in peak condition.
Preparation is key
In the build up to a race, runners can expect to experience a whole range of emotions; doubt, excitement, nerves. Whatever you’re feeling, remember – you’ve put in the hard work and you are ready to perform. The best way to counter the nervous energy is to put your mind at rest with solid preparation.
Some easy ways to prep include: learning the route of the run, working out how you are going to get to the race with plenty of time to warm up, and memorising some mental markers throughout the course which will help you keep track of your ideal timing.
It sounds obvious, but also make sure that you get everything ready the night before, so you aren’t looking for your race number five minutes before you have to leave. Feeling mentally prepared will help clear your mind and help you run the best race you possibly can.
Many runners will experience an increased appetite during a training programme, and subsequently increase their calorie intake in line with this. However, a common mistake for runners to make is to overindulge during race week, forgetting that actually, the amount of training being carried out has decreased!
Typically, there is also a bit of confusion around the term ‘carbo-load’. Many runners believing this gives them license to eat as much they can before a race, which sadly, isn’t the case. However, if you fuel your body in the right way then, come race day, you are far less likely to hit the dreaded ‘wall’.
When you eat a bowl of pasta, most of the carbs are stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver. If you carbo-load properly, your muscles will not run out of glycogen and this will allow you to run your best race.
Rice and pasta are obvious pre-race choices. Foods like tortillas, oatmeal and bread are also good options and are easy to digest. Make sure you avoid creamy sauces and too much protein. When it comes to fruit, pick a low-fibre option, such as a banana.
– You might be interested to read: What to eat before you run –
Get your ‘8 hours’
Finally, one of the best pieces of advice I can offer pre-race day is to sleep! Runners should be looking to get a minimum of eight hours shut-eye the night before race day. This will help to ensure you wake up feeling rested and ready to smash your PB!