It’s race day, and you have been working hard to achieve athletic success! Regardless of how ready you feel, you can still benefit from a few helpful tips, especially if competitive running becomes a new hobby of yours!
Sleep Is Not for the Weak
Healthy habits before a race are vital. You will be using a lot of energy, so you need a good night’s sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, athletes such as tennis player Serena Williams have an early bedtime around 7 p.m. The foundation also noted a study in the journal SLEEP that said a lack of sleep led to a decline in accuracy and split-second decision making.
Research has also shown that sleep deprivation can raise levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Exercise, combined with lack of sleep, will also deplete more energy than usual during and after a workout.
Aside from rest, the best thing to do within 24 hours of a race is to stay hydrated (Hyperlink to one of our hydration/water articles). To get the best healthy hydration possible, you will also want to avoid caffeine and alcohol.
You may want to snack on more carbohydrates than usual as they will increase levels of glycogen, a source of energy, in your body.
BBC Good Food suggests that a person should eat seven to 10 grams of carbohydrates for every kilogram—or two pounds—of body weight. To get this intake, a person should spread out the carbs throughout the day’s meals. Some examples of delicious but healthy foods to eat within three days of a race include small pastas [what is a small pasta?], potatoes, beans, chicken, fruits, vegetables, and rice.
On the day of the race, be sure to eat a healthy breakfast for increased energy.
Shake It Out
Some athletic experts say that it is good to take a run the morning of a race. This warm-up is called a shakeout run. While some runners want to store energy before a race and do an easy jog, others use a shakeout run to loosen muscles and stretch the legs before a race.
How Much Is Too Much?
During the big race, or after many races, it is important for a runner to know when it is time to slow down, or when they may be straining themselves.
If you are recovering from an illness such as cold or flu, an athletic injury, an asthma flare up, a concussion, or other ailments, you should hold off on racing.
Stop running if you experience sudden or increasing pain in the chest and upper body. This could be a symptom of cardiological issues such as a heart attack. Also stop if you feel faint, lightheaded, or nauseous. These could be signs of heat exhaustion or that you did not eat enough before running.
Additionally, pay specific attention to aches and pains in the muscles, and unspecified pain. While soreness is normal with physical activity, it could also be a symptom of strain or further injury if it continues or gets worse.
“Can a Shakeout Run Improve Race Day Performance?” www.RunnersConnect.com, 2016
“Sleep, Athletic Performance, and Recovery” National Sleep Foundation, www.SleepFoundation.org, 2016
“Race Day Foods” by Katie Hiscock, BBC Good Food, www.BBCGoodFood.com, 2016
“When Not to Exercise,” www.WebMD.com, 2016
“When to Stop Running” by Jim and Phil Wharton, Runner’s World, www.runnersworld.com, 12/01/06