Fun Run season is very much upon us with the City to Surf, Bay Run, Sydney 10 and 5km and the Sydney Running Festival all coming up on the calendar over the next few months. Many of you will be keen to achieve that goal you have been training so hard for whether it’s a marathon or a 5km race. Hopefully you have already addressed any niggly injuries that cropped up along the way and you are heading into this race with:
- Good form
- A strong body
- The right footwear
- The right training regime
So what else is there to do? Here are a few tips to help prevent injury and tears on the day and get you over the line in record time.
- Get a good nights’ rest: Studies have shown that if you are one of those people who suffers with sleep deprivation, it is likely that your performance would be impaired if you miss several hours of sleep 1-2 nights out from your race. Some studies have found increased levels of stress hormones in the body in endurance runners who are chronically sleep-deprived which prolongs recovery time. So find a bedtime routine that suits you leading up to the race and ensure you regularly get 7.5 – 8 hours of good quality sleep per night.
- Avoid alcohol the night before the race: Alcohol is a powerful diuretic as anyone who has had a few too many will testify. Starting a run already dehydrated will affect your performance as alcohol can adversely affect the body’s metabolic processes during exercise increasing the risk of muscle cramps and strains.
- Choose footwear you know works for you: Avoid running in very old or very new shoes on race day. Ideally wear shoes that have done at least 60 – 80 km and you are confident they are not going to create any dreaded blisters or predispose you to a new injury. It is generally safe to purchase new runners three weeks out from a race as long as you test them out with some short runs and a couple of longer ones beforehand.
- Warm up: The jury is still out on how stretching affects running performance or minimises the risk of injury. Despite the lack of research either way, health care providers and trainers generally still recommend a dynamic stretching regime and light run to elevate your heart rate and respiratory rate in readiness for a quick start where your muscles will need extra oxygen circulating. Wear warm clothing for those early morning winter starts and try some 20m striding intervals 10 mins before the gun. Once ordered to the start line, keep your heart and respiratory rates up by jogging in place, hopping from one foot to the other and/or bouncing up and down. In short, do NOT let yourself cool down by just standing still. Your warm up routine will of course need to vary depending on race distance.
- Know your limits: Listen to your body on race day and adjust your pace accordingly. The pace that is right for you should feel comfortable and relaxed. Try to maintain a steady pace from start to finish – taking off too quickly at the start can be costly.
- Feed your body: Eat a light snack around 1 ½ – 2 hours prior to the race. Choose something high in carbohydrates and low in fat. Good examples are banana, energy bars and cereal. If you are prone to gastro-intestinal upset or have specific dietary needs then plan ahead and choose to eat food you know agrees with you. Don’t try out a new gel or a ‘special’ breakfast on race day.
- Plan to wear what you know feels good: Singlet or shirt? Remember to double lace your shoes and tape those sensitive areas that are prone to rashes.
- Hydration: Avoid over drinking before the race – sips will do. Teach yourself to drink on the run if you are running 10km or more. It’s a skill that can save you precious seconds. Just drinking water may not always be enough though. Electrolyte drinks will help your body to hold fluids more efficiently so plan how you wish to replenish your fluids. Commonly you will be offered a choice of water or electrolytes at each drink station but the water will usually be on the first table.
Running the perfect race takes careful planning and preparation. Enjoy the season and see you at the finish!
(Image curtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)