Click on the topics below to learn more!
You’ve registered, gotten your confirmation email and are pumped for the Great Race! Now what? There is a lot that needs to happen over the span of the next three months, and it might feel very overwhelming if you don’t know where to begin. I’m here to help you put a plan in place that will not only prepare you for the event, but make sure you enjoy yourself along the way. I’m here to help you create sustainable practices that will stick around in the long run, and ensure that you have a, ahem... “great race” in September.
There are three things you’ll want to do right away. Lace up, gear up and buddy up. Pretty self-explanatory, right? Getting yourself a good pair of shoes is the best up-front investment you can make. If this is your first 5K or your 100th 10K, high-quality, custom-fit footwear will go a long way. With 12 weeks of training ahead of you, those beat up tennis shoes you scored from a discount rack two years ago just aren’t going to cut it. Shameless plug...Fleet Feet has you covered. We’ll do a visual inspection, a gait analysis and scan your foot using 3D technology. The reps will also talk to you about your training and racing goals, in order to get you into the perfect pair of kicks.
Gear up. It’s hot, and you should be carrying water with you on your training runs. Nathan products do a great job of keeping you hydrated while seamlessly integrating onto your body. Trust me, it doesn’t feel like you’ve strapped a water cooler to your back. Moisture-wicking apparel (especially headgear) is going to be essential this time of year. You won’t want to be carrying around all that extra water weight once it’s left your system. If you only get a chance to run when it’s dark outside, you should also get a little light or two that goes blinky-blink-blink so motorists (instead of people watching the morning news) will see you.
Last but not not least, find a buddy or two. Or five. Or fifty. We are social creatures who have survived this far by grouping into tribes. To create lasting, sustainable fitness practices you’ll enjoy much greater success in a group. There are plenty of incredible running groups around Pittsburgh, like the Fleet Feet Running Club, that offer plans, programs and mentorship for runners of all ability levels.
There’s your homework for the week. Getting a head start on the basics will put you in a good place for a successful training season, and ensure a fun, positive experience. It’s like finding the corner pieces of a jigsaw puzzle first, the rest gets easier from there. Come back next week to talk training, and learn why consistency is key!
You’ve heard it before, practice makes perfect. While perfection certainly isn’t the ultimate goal for everyone here, I’m sure that running a strong race is a top priority. The best, and perhaps only, way to ensure success is by staying consistent throughout your training cycle. Consistency doesn’t mean running every day, and it also doesn’t mean that there won’t be setbacks and struggles. What is does mean is keeping a clear vision of your goal, and making the daily decisions that need to be made in order to see that goal realized. I’ve been coaching all levels, for every surface and any distance throughout my career…and these are the top three nuggets of wisdom I can impart to ensure consistency:
1) Focus on progression at the macro level. There will be training runs where things just don’t “click” and you may feel that what you’re doing isn’t working, or that you are not progressing as rapidly as you think you should be. This is a conversation I’ve had many times before. Not every day is going to be the perfect day, but as long as you are trending in the right direction you can forget about the details.
2) Don’t “make up” missed mileage. Trying to do extra work to come back from lost time significantly increases injury risk and can also be detrimental to a progressive, periodized training plan. If you missed the workout yesterday, don’t dwell on it. More importantly, don’t try to rebound in a way that could sideline you for the season. The past is the past, and doesn’t exist anymore. Now is the now. Be your best you in the moment, and don’t stress about yesterday. Sure, getting sick is not ideal and that crisis at work might not resolve itself. But life happens, and you’d be well-advised to just roll with the punches.
3) Do something every day that gets you closer to your goal. For the most part this means completing the workout that is in your training plan. Other days it might mean something completely different! Are you scheduled for a recovery day? Use the time to truly recover by stretching, rolling or getting a massage. Do you have to miss a workout because your flight was delayed? Close your eyes and visualize the race in your head while you’re stuck in the airport. Did your morning miles take longer than planned and now you’re stuck in traffic on the way into work? Bring your attention to your breath and practice nasal breathing to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system. It will help your body recover, and help your brain relax.
What you are doing immediately before and after a run is just as important as the workout itself. Are you adequately preparing your body for the demands that are to follow, and are you allowing your system to recovery appropriately after the work is performed? As most experienced runners know, things don’t really start to “click” until at least a mile into your run. This is because most of the sport-specific warm-up happens during those first few minutes of a light jog before the real workout begins. Taking a few minutes to focus on your ball-in-socket joints (hips and shoulders), as well as ankle and knee flexion, before the run will help you “hit your stride” sooner. Then, a good post-run stretch is just as much preparation for your next workout as it is recovery from the miles you just ran.
A good rule of thumb is to perform a dynamic (movement-based) warm-up before running, and save the passive (static) stretching for after the workout. When you think about it, it makes sense…leg swings, high knees and butt kicks are all opening your joints, promoting blood flow and conditioning your body for the act of running. Once you don’t need to run anymore, it is the proper time to focus on increasing range of motion and flexibility. You can use common stretches like toe touches and a standing quadriceps stretch or yoga poses like cobra and downward-facing dog.
Myofascial release is one of my favorite warm-up and cool-down methods. You can use a stick roller like Addaday or a Trigger Point foam roller before a run to promote blood flow and release unnecessary tension in the muscles. Post-run self-massage is also a create method to help break up any knots and move lactate buildup out of your system.
Your dynamic warm-up should take no more than 7-10 minutes total, and is helpful in preventing injury and maximizing the benefits of your run. When you are performing your static stretches, you should lengthen the muscle to a point where you are slightly uncomfortable but not in pain. Holding each stretch for 10-20 seconds will help minimize your risk of getting hurt, while holding it for longer than 20 seconds will increase your range of motion and flexibility. Unfortunately most runners skip out on the warm-up and the cool-down for the sake of extra mileage or due to a tight schedule. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m often one of them! Taking an extra few minutes to bookend your run with the appropriate performance-enhancing practices will allow you to get more out of the day’s workout and feel more refreshed for tomorrows.
You’ve heard it before, if you’re thirsty it means you are already partially dehydrated. We are not strangers to hot summers in Pittsburgh, and staying properly hydrated can help keep you out of harm’s way and allow you to get the most benefit from your run. There are a few important things you can do to ensure you are getting enough fluid in your system throughout the day:
1) Drink early and drink often. Don’t wait until you are cramping up on a run to start drinking water. Have a big glass first thing in the morning, and continue to drink throughout the day so you start the workout in a good place.
2) Carry water with you. There are some amazing products on the market right now, like hydration vests, waist belts, and portable water bottles, which make carrying extra hydration easy and painless. The general rule is to drink 12-24 ounces within 60 minutes of your workout, then four ounces for every 20 minutes you are out running.
3) Choose your run wisely. If it’s going to be a scorcher, make every attempt to get out early in the morning or later at night when the temperatures are a bit cooler. If you have to head out in the middle of the day, choose a route that provides some cover and shade.
4) Test yourself. You can weigh yourself before and after a run to see just how much you’ve lost, so you know what you need to replace. Another convenient self-assessment is the pee-test. Your urine should be a pale yellow; if it is darker than that, go find a water bottle right away!
5) Replace everything you lose. More than H2O is lost in sweat. It’s a good idea to utilize a sports drink or recovery drink that contains sodium and electrolytes to make up for the nutrients you’ve depleted over the course of your run.
A tried and true rule that I use is what I like to call the One-For-One. I thoroughly enjoy my morning (and likely mid-morning) cup of coffee. I also look forward to my two post-work IPAs. There’s no way in heck I’m giving up either of these two luxuries in the near future, but they both have a dehydrating effect on my body. In order to counteract this and make sure I’m not ending up in the red, I’ll have 12 ounces of water for every 12 ounces of “not-water” that I consume. I also keep a water bottle right at my desk all day, so I’m not tempted by the sugary drinks in the refrigerator. Set yourself up for success by creating sustainable hydration practices that you can implement regularly until they become habitual.
Runners run, it’s just what we do. But, all too often, it’s the ONLY thing we do. I fall victim to this on a recurring basis...it’s easy for me to become a slave to the almighty mile. If you ask me what I’d like to be doing at almost any time on any given day, the answer is most likely “running.” But what happens when we sacrifice things like stretching and rolling for the sake of another few minutes on the road, track or trail? Most of the time nothing, until that singular, fateful day when something DOES happen and it takes us out of the game. It’s during this time that hindsight really is 20/20, and we play the coulda, woulda shoulda game with our lack of cross-training or comprehensive conditioning. It doesn’t have to be this way. Sacrificing a mile or two now for a week or month of steady training down the road is always worthwhile.
As a runner, you’re performing one motion through one plane of movement. While the dance can oftentimes be simplistically elegant, it’s less than ideal for preventing repetitive overuse injuries. It becomes imperative for us to prepare our bodies for different movement patterns, using different body mechanics, in order to reduce our chances of getting hurt. But what does that look like? What can you do on a regular basis that won’t take too much time away from the run? While I’m definitely an advocate of strength-training and off-season conditioning work, these “best practices” will appeal to even the most holy of the purists out there.
It all starts with the warm-up. How many of you have jumped out of bed and immediately started your run? Everyone. Everyone has done this. Were you properly warmed up? Were your muscles and joints loose? Did you to anything other than tie your shoes before the workout? No, no and no. That’s trouble waiting to happen. Luckily, you don’t need to spend 20 minutes getting ready to roll each time. If you use these techniques, a good-quality, mobility-based warm-up won’t take more than 3-5 minutes.
1) Move backward, side to side and up and down. It doesn’t really make much difference how you do this, the idea is simply to get you moving through all planes of motion. You’ll be more prepared for surprise obstacles out on the road.
2) Elevate your heart rate. A few burpees, jumping jacks or striders will increase your heart rate and push fresh blood into the working muscles. This will literally warm you up, and is especially important if you exercise first thing in the morning or in cooler temperatures.
3) Take a few deep breaths. Deep breathing will help stretch out your lungs, and give yourself a moment of stillness to contemplate the task at hand. It will help you relax, center yourself and get the most out of the run.
It finishes with the cooldown. We’re all on a tight schedule. The moment the run is over, the shoes are off and we’re in the car on the way to our next appointment. By jumping immediately back into your normal routine after a run, you’re missing a critical window of opportunity where your body is primed to become more flexible. You’re already loose and limber, so take advantage of it! Developing a short, effective post-run stretching routine isn’t as complicated as you might think.
1) Walk it off. Blood needs to circulate to become re-oxygenated, and blood circulates through muscular contractions. This concept, loosely called venous return, is the first step in your recovery. Rather than allowing blood to pool in your extremities, simply walk for 2-3 minutes after a workout.
2) Shake it out. Giving your arms, legs and torso a quick shake helps loosen up after a run, especially if you have a tight shoulders from holding your arms up or a stiff lower back from the repetitive pounding on the pavement.
3) Salute the sun. I’ve found that the standard yoga-based sun salutation hits all the major muscle groups in a smooth, fluid fashion. Hold each pose for about 20 seconds before transitioning to the next, and go through the salutation about 2-4 times.
“What’s the best way to run?” It’s a question I hear all the time. My answer...YOUR way. Your way is the best way to run. The body is a smooth operator, and an extraordinarily efficient movement machine. The more you run, the more your body is going to learn HOW to run. It’s like a river flowing downstream, always looking for the path of least resistance. Everyone has a gait and stride that is different, and it is as unique as your fingerprints. Experienced coaches can recognize their runners from a distance just by watching body mechanics. While there is no one-size-fits-all running form, there are technical four principles that can help improve overall economy and lower the risk of injury. Even though you are a special little snowflake, these are core components that everyone can benefit from.
Posture. I’m sure you’ve heard a spectator or coach yelling for an athlete to “run tall!” Good posture means good body alignment, and good body alignment means fewer imbalances. Fewer imbalances create better mechanics, and better mechanics begets fewer injuries. I like to cue my runners to fix poor posture or improper alignment by telling them to engage their core, and to keep their chins up and eyes out.
Midfoot strike. Heel striking is everywhere you look, from articles in magazines to the weekend warriors at the local park. For whatever reason, we’ve been conditioned to believe that a long stride is a better stride. A longer stride creates a point of contact with the ground that is in front of the rest of your body, with the primary impact point right on the heel of your foot. This is the biomechanical equivalent of slamming on the brakes at the same time you are flooring the gas pedal! On contact you create 3-5 times your bodyweight in vibrations, and heel striking compromises the integrity of your suspension system and its ability to absorb this energy. The result? A stiff lower back and bad knees at best! By heel striking, you are attempting to pull yourself along the surface of the Earth using muscle groups that weren’t designed for the task. Instead try marching in place before your run to become ingrain the sensation of a midfoot landing, and then practice pushing the world behind you with each step you take during the run.
Cadence. Cadence is a technical term for the tempo of your run, similar to RPMs on a bicycle. Since we now know that longer strides aren’t better, how many short strides should you aim for? The magic number here is 180 strides per minute, or 90 footfalls with each leg over 60 seconds (it’s easier to count that way). For all my perfectionists out there, try not to get too wrapped up in the numbers. It’s tough to hit exactly 180 EVERY time you go for a run. I average about 176, but can end up as low as 165! What’s most important is that you simply make an attempt for 180, because increasing your cadence and shortening your stride will also help bring your point of impact to the midfoot. If you’re landing on your midfoot, and consequently underneath your hips, your body is in a much better position to absorb the shock. You’ll find that you’ll be running lightly, and sounding less like a Clydesdale.
Lean. The all-important lean. Why work harder when you can work smarter? Running doesn’t have to be a constant struggle, gravity can be your best friend and actually pull you forward. All you have to do is keep taking step after step so you don’t fall flat on your face! The key here goes back to our first form focus of posture. It’s important that the core stays engaged and your spine stays straight as you lean forward from the ankles and NOT from the hips. Think of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal moves. By leaning forward ever so slightly, you’re allowing gravity to do what it does best and taking the workload off your body. Running is just falling…..with style.
It might seem counterintuitive, but you really become stronger, faster and more resilient when your body is at rest. During your runs and workouts you are imposing different types of stress to your system. This isn’t just limited to your cardiovascular system, but includes your musculoskeletal and central nervous systems as well. In training, you are taking one step back in order to take two steps forward.
In order to continually progress and see the most benefit from a training program, it is imperative that you are fueling your body the right way. We break ourselves down during a run, so you need to have the right building blocks in place when your body starts to repair itself. Too many people don’t treat their post-workout nutrition regimen as part of a comprehensive recovery protocol, to their own detriment. This is when I typically start to see not just a plateau in performance, but also nutritional deficiencies that could have potentially catastrophic results.
After a tough workout, you’ll want to make sure that your body is getting enough fats, proteins and carbohydrates to restore and replenish itself. A standard post-run sports drink is a good idea, but it’s also helpful to include foods and drinks that contain more than just sugar and salt. Some of my go-to favorites after a long run are:
1) Chocolate milk. The ratios of carbs to fats to proteins is very well-balanced, and cold chocolate milk after a tough workout on a hot day is impossible to beat.
2) Granola bars. These bars typically contain some sort of fruit, nuts or a combination of the two which makes them a perfect and portable post-run munchie.
3) Smoothie. I like to blend some leafy greens into a shake with a few berries, banana slices and a scoop of Greek yogurt. Then I’ll throw in some chia or flax seed and top it off with almond milk and a protein powder. This not only gives me a perfect way to refuel, but a full-blown meal-replacement as well!
All too often I see people getting into the calorie counting game at the same time they are trying to make performance gains. It’s crucial to remember that it’s not just the work that makes you better, but it’s how you respond to the work as well. Without proper recovery methods like wholesome nutrition and adequate sleep, the mileage you log isn’t going to do much more than just run your body down.
You find yourself back in the office on Monday, with some first-degree burns on your back and an extra five pounds around your waistline. All those margaritas definitely didn’t help your training at all, but that doesn’t mean you should give up on your goal! I’ve had countless people drop out of programs after missing two or three workouts because they feel like they are “too far behind” to catch up. Circumstances like this are certainly less than ideal, but it’s definitely not the end of the world. It’s summertime. People go on vacation. We like to get out, let loose and have a little fun. So how can you use this time off to your advantage?
1) “Down time” doesn’t mean you have to be lying down the whole time. It’s nice to take a little snooze in the sand, but reward yourself with a nap after a long walk on the beach. Any movement is good movement, even if you’re not running. Your heart rate doesn’t have to be going through the roof in order to get in a good quality workout.
2) Spice it up! Get weird and use your imagination. Find a flight of stairs and do some sprints, or use the parking line demarcations in the hotel lot for some drill-based exercises. All you need is your bodyweight for exercises like pushups and Burpees, so use your time away from your training group to do a workout that you wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to do.
3) Remember to do some damage control. It’s easy to go 0-60, especially when you’re out of town and not thinking about the race. Out of sight, out of mind. In these moments it’s wise to listen to the voice in the back of your head. You know, the one that’s telling you to wrap things up and go to bed because you need to get in a quick 20 minute jog before tomorrow really begins. No one’s telling you not to have a beer with your eggs, but it’s much more refreshing if you have already put a few miles under your belt.
4) Reset and refocus. Taking a week-long vacation in the middle of a training cycle will undoubtedly set you back. Be comfortable with that! Taking care of your brain is just as important as taking care of your body, and time off is a good chance for self-care and self-reflection. You won’t want to let consecutive days slip by without exercising at all, but remember you’re still on vacation and it’s not the time to create additional unnecessary stressors.
5) Get back on track right away. If you take a week vacation, then take another week to catch up on work then it becomes even easier to take a third week to get back into the exercise groove. Before you know it, you’ve lost almost a month! Put boundaries on Bacchus, and remember there is still a task at hand. It’s nice to step away from everything, but only when you come back re-energized, renewed and ready to take on the world!
Heart rate zone training is one of my favorite topics to talk about. You’ve likely heard a lot of the terminology getting tossed around, so I’m here to help you understand what it all means and how you can use it to your advantage. While each of these concepts alone warrants an entire thesis, I am going to break down the basic components of zone training and give you applicable ways to insert the techniques into your training. First-time runners and the veteran crowd alike can benefit from implementing the latest scientific breakthroughs into their existing routines.
Let’s begin with ventilatory thresholds. Every runner has two of them, and unique things happen when you cross over these boundaries. The energy systems that your body uses to keep you going will change, and you’ll notice significant shifts in your breathing patterns. If you’ve ever run with a friend who picked up the pace and you suddenly found that holding a conversation became impossible, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You may have even experienced an insurmountable buildup of lactate if you finished the run anaerobically with a sprint or finishing “kick.”
Most of the time, your runs will take place below your first ventilatory threshold and well within your aerobic capacity. If you can chat with your friend without feeling short of breath, you know you are in the right zone to train muscular endurance and consequently increase the distance you are able to run. Now if you start to “push the pace” and your breathing becomes heavy and labored, you are working somewhere between your first and second thresholds and making adaptations that will directly influence the overall capacity of your cardiovascular system as well. Think about it this way, you’re increasing the capacity of your heart and lungs in addition to your muscle and bone. Finally, work performed above your second ventilatory threshold is anaerobic (without oxygen) and is good for developing speed over very short distances. Think of this as your sprint or “kick” pace, which is a gear or two up from your “push” pace (which is still predominantly aerobic). Training in each zone will elicit a different set of adaptations, because the imposed stress differs in each case. If you want to run further, spend a lot of time in Zones 1 and 2 (between 60-80% of maximum effort). If you want to run faster, kick it up to Zones 3 and 4 (80-100% of maximum effort). Understanding what your specific goal for each workout is key to staying in the appropriate zone.
The best and easiest way to track your heart rate is a GPS or fitness tracker such as a Garmin. There is an easy formula you can use to lay out your training zones. For men, subtracting your age from 220 gives you 100% of your maximum heart rate. For women it’s a bit more complex, subtract 88 percent of your age from 206. Based on your 100% value, you can extrapolate your different zones and use those zones as a guideline throughout your workout. Things like stress levels and elevated temperatures can also increase your heart rate though, so it’s important to understand the “feel” of each zone in case your numbers become skewed based on these external conditions. Low zone work should feel relaxed and “comfortable”, with efforts between VT1 and VT2 feeling “hard, but sustainable” while anaerobic effort past VT2 just feels agonizing!
The other components of heart rate zone training you’ve likely been exposed to are things like VO2 max (a measurement of your body’s ability to utilize oxygen), heart rate recovery (which determines how quickly you can settle back into a normal pace after charging up a hill) and heart rate variability (a metric that many athletes use to determine how their body responds to or recovers from a tough training session). The list goes on and on, and it’s easy to get lost in the weeds with a topic this complex. If you understand what training in each zone feels like, and what adaptations you are making by working in each zone, you have grasped one of the most fundamental concepts in the sport. It’s easier said than done though, and the best way to learn is by spending more time on your feet!
Some of the most common questions I get are about cross-training and strength-training. Both elements are important to include as part of a comprehensive training program. They can help runners of all shapes, sizes and ability levels become stronger, faster and more efficient while remaining healthy at the same time. It’s very easy to get lost in the weeds when it comes to incorporating these methods into your routine, so let’s cut through the confusion and stick with the basics.
It’s true that every sort of cross-training or strength-training you do can benefit your running in some way. However, there are some fundamental exercises and basic movement patterns that will give you the most bang for your buck. The easiest and most effective exercise I program for runners of all ability levels are planks. There are variations and modifications you can work through in order to enhance the degree of difficulty, but every runner everywhere in the world can benefit from a stronger core. If you want to work on some mobility and flexibility while giving yourself the option to add an external load (additional weight), I recommend squats and lunges. Finally, for a more experienced runner, I’ll transition them into unilateral exercises like a single-leg Romanian deadlift or pistol squats.
What’s important here is to focus on cross-training and strength-training that is specifically suited for your individual goals and level of ability. Just like anything else, it is better (not to mention safer) to build from the ground up and develop a strong base before progressing into a more complex program with multiple variables. Let me put it this way…if you can’t stand on one leg without losing your balance you have no business trying to deadlift. If you are injury-prone, or have postural or structural imbalances, it is much wiser to address these issues and get to the root of the problem instead of simply trying to cover them up. This means something different for each individual, so if you are serious about cross-training or strength-training go talk to a qualified personal trainer instead of ripping the “Top Three Strength Training Moves For Runners” off of a quick Google search.
The best advice I can give in terms of cross-training and strength-training is to just keep it simple. Unless you are training under heavy loads with high intensity and at crazy volume, any movement is good movement. Try not to complicate things, and just throw in a few bodyweight squats or a minute or two of planks at the end of every run. Proper functional technique and good posture is going to provide the most direct relational improvement to your overall running economy and efficiency.
As a runner, I’m sure you’re intimately aware of the brain-body connection and how it can affect performance in a workout and a race. The most recent developments in the exercise science world are pointing directly at the symbiotic nature of these two systems, and we are just beginning to understand how powerful this connection can actually be. Your mindset matters, not just in everyday life, but in athletic performance as well.
We all hear the little voices in our heads, especially during a long training run. How often do you take the time to listen to what it is saying? This incessant chatter is a biological marvel. I think, therefore I am. Most athletes have unfortunately been conditioned to silence their inner oracle, when it is actually in their best interest to give it a microphone and let it speak up. In our society we are hounded by mantras like “shut up and run” and “pain is weakness leaving the body.” This is bogus, and is how people end up hurt. I’m not saying that every mile you run will be Strawberry Fields forever. What I am implying is that your human organism is much more intelligent than your rational mind, and it will do you some good to be aware of what it is telling you.
We are adapted to be chronic students; we are constantly learning on a subconscious level. Everything you see, every sensation you feel and every experience you have is an opportunity for you to know and understand something new. In running, every step we take literally creates new neurological pathways in our brain. Our workouts are not just miles for the sake of mileage, but are an opportunity to engage both our mental and physical components. They become an opportunity to enhance communication between these two seemingly separate parts of ourselves, and allow us to begin to understand the amazingly complex symbiosis that truly exists.
I always like to ask my runners how they feel after a training run. Being more aware of how we feel helps tune us in to the signals we are receiving. Ask yourself what you are learning, and how you should respond based on that knowledge. I know it’s tempting to sync your Garmin and post a sweaty selfie immediately after your workout, but try keeping a running journal instead. I know it’s easy to stretch for two seconds then chug some water before hustling on to the next part of your day. Rather, remain still, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Your body wants to teach you something every second of every day, and it is asking you for a response.
So, you’ve trained for months for your goal race and the week is finally here. Now what? What should the last few hours between now and the race look like?
24-48 hours out – Cross your “T’s” and dot your “I’s”. I always feel more comfortable once I have my race bib in hand. Picking up your packet early means that you can troubleshoot any potential registration snafus in plenty of time before the race. I also double-check the weather and any traffic updates to ensure that I arrive in plenty of time to loosen up before the run. There’s nothing like finding out that your bus is delayed on the morning of your event.
12-16 hours out – Assemble the team. You’ll want to pull out your race gear, fix your bib to your shirt and take final inventory of everything you’ll need for the event. Are you packing the right pair of shoes? Do you have a change of socks and an extra t-shirt for after the race? It’s inevitable that you’ll forget something, but do your best to make sure that something is your chapstick and not your sneakers.
8-12 hours out – Zzzzzz. Or at least “zzzzz” as best you can. It’s not unusual to have some increased stress or anxiety the night before a race. Do your best to create optimal sleeping conditions by getting away from blue light, turning down the thermostat in the bedroom and setting an extra alarm for the morning. Don’t be surprised if you get a fitful night’s sleep, especially if it’s your first time racing, but utilize some of these best practices to increase the likelihood of falling asleep and staying asleep.
2-3 hours out – Eat whatever solid food you plan to before the race, so your body has time to digest and make the nutrition available to you come game time. Leave yourself enough time and space to eat in a relaxed environment and manner at home before travelling to the event. You don’t want to stress yourself out trying to cram a bagel into your mouth while tying your shoelaces and navigating through traffic.
1-1 hours out – Hydrate. Sip on some water instead of chugging it. You won’t want an entire bottle sloshing around in your system while you’re trying to perform. Loosen up. Use your dynamic warm-up drills to open up the joints, and jog around a bit to get the blood flowing. You’ll want your joints to be lubricated, and your muscles full of fresh blood and oxygen when the gun goes off.
1-1 minutes in – Slow down. Everyone. EVERYONE. Always. ALWAYS goes out too fast in a race. We can’t help it. It’s the environment, and it’s our nature as competitive and excitable creatures. Lots of coaches will tell you to relax and pace yourself from the start. I’m not that coach, because it’s an absolutely unrealistic expectation. Instead, what I like to tell people is to simply “settle” back into their goal race pace as soon as that initial burst of adrenaline wears off. Go ahead, get yourself off to a strong start! Find a good position, and hook up with a nice pack of people to pace with…then ease off the throttle just a bit so you don’t crash and burn too early.
15 minutes to 2 hour in – Celebrate! Job well done. You’ve made it across the finish line happy and healthy. Whether this was your first race or your fiftieth, you deserve a hug, a high five and a big glass of chocolate milk!