I hear this all the time as people act like they are confessing their sins as they tell me they are totally unprepared for their upcoming event. It’s usually a half or full marathon. Life gets in the way of our best training plans sometimes. It’s okay! We are human. The good news is under training often leads to better race times than over training. Running is very mental so stop thinking you are signed up to fail! There are some things you can do in the 1-2 weeks before the big day to ensure a more successful event. Follow these steps towards your race or event and toe the starting line feeling race ready:
1. Core core core. Plank variations like the up down planks, shoulder taps, renegade rows, stability ball walk outs, and other great dynamic (movement) functional exercises like bridges are really important here. Stop reading and so some for 30 seconds to 3 minutes right now!!!! Seriously. Now repeat as often as possible. I mean 2-5 times a day. Now before you think I’m crazy I’m literally talking 30 seconds minimum here so I mean 2.5 to 15 minutes TOTAL of core work a day. The trick is to do them as often as possible thinking “activation” and not “extreme workout”. In the morning before your shower, while on the phone at the office, while you are cooking, during commercials. As long as you start this practice at least 5 days out from your event it will work to dramatically improve how you will look and feel through the last half of your race. Focus on deep breathing while you do these movements!
2. Get LOTS of sleep in these days leading up to the race. Try waking up early like you will on race day and going for a short run of 1.5 to 4 mile run. Keep the intensity and pace at a very comfortable level as in being able to speak in full sentences BUT keep you leg speed quick, actively pushing off the ground at about 175-182 steps a minute. Running with a slower cadence that focuses on your feet landing instead of pushing means you are training outside the parameters of your sport and this is not when you want to be wasting your time. Even though it’s early be sure to run with a slight smile on your face! Sounds silly? Well don’t act like a 5 year old saying “CHEESE”, the slightest hint of a smile will go a long way to helping you breathe more effortlessly and subconsciously it will tell your brain you are feeling good. This habit will pay off big on race day! Running drills like the carioca, high knee skips, side shuffles, and but kickers with correct form (foot comes up under you not just swinging back from the knee) should be done before your runs to activate and after to help recovery and instilling that fast poppy cadence in your muscle memory. Getting good sleep and getting used to the morning run will condition you to have energy and be less of a cranky jerk on race morning.
3. Even though they are short with moderate to low intensities, if you know what sports drinks and snacks you will be having before and during your race bring a small amount with you on your runs and be sure to sip and nibble. It will prepare you to perform with less surprises on race day. Light running at a comfortable fast cadence is the goal here.
4. Add a little more cardio and activate recovery after your runs by getting on a bicycle, spin bike, bike rollers, or Elliptigo for 15-40 minutes after your run. The runs should be easy enough that you feel like you can do 2 in one day and if you want to that is great but keep one shorter than the other and don’t do a double run day in the 2 days before the event. Bike again later in the day or evening instead of logging too many miles on your feet after not running as regularly as you should have leading up to your event. While on the bike think about ACTIVATING your muscles and energy systems and don’t feel like you need to wear yourself out and feel exhausted when you are done. Keeping it short and light enough that you feel like you could have dome more is key here.
5. Swim a few times a week. If you haven’t been swimming remember the first time back in the lap pool is always a little bit hard and frustrating. It’s not an olympic workout but nice comfortable swimming 4-20 pool lengths at a time without stopping and repeating 2 or 3 times. Go ahead and throw a pinch of intensity in there for 15 seconds here and there. Just don’t go all out and do something that will take more than a day or two to recover from. This great cardio will have very low impact on your joints. The circulation will work wonders for your muscle recovery. Every time you make it to the pool during this time period will increase the efficiency of the oxygen transfer into your bloodstream and your breathing will feel better and better while you run. Running really is just moving and breathing so don’t underestimate the impact of even simple breathing exercises like abdominal lifts and flicks you can see demonstrated HERE.
6. Don’t let your nutrition slip during this important time period. Stay away from processed foods and preservatives as much as possible. Plan nutrition dense meals and snacks. Remember that alkalizing foods, and simple lemon water, will help muscles to fully recover and remove acidic waste and debris from your muscles. Anti inflammatory foods like ginger, turmeric root, and beets should be included in every meal possible. Research lists of anti inflammatory foods and make them a bigger part of your diet in general. Avoid fast food and sugary snacks that can have negative affects on how you feel for a couple days after you eat them. Make sure you are getting lots of magnesium in your diet or take supplements. Magnesium is also involved in at least 300 biochemical reactions in the body and a deficiency can lead to muscle spasms. Dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, AVOCADOS, whole grains (brown rice), bananas, and DARK chocolate should be in heavt rotation during this time period. Getting enough magnesium helps you sleep deeply which is a catalyst for muscle recovery and growth. Read more about it HERE.
7. You don’t really want a total “Rest Day” before the race. No running 2 days out from the race if you feel you need the recovery might be a good idea but I suggest still doing some light swimming or cycling for at least 15-40 minutes even on this rest (from running) day. When you are 2 or 3 days out from the event is important to keep activating your muscles and energy systems but if you over do it on these 2 specific days it could lead to you being on the wrong part of your natural stress adaptation curve on race day. Always run the day before the race if only for a short quick activation. I find this really helps me feel ready and not over rested when the race is starting.
8. Check out the course map and elevation information if it is provided. This will help you mentally prepare for how you want to pace yourself through the event. Be familiar with cross streets and landmarks around certain mile markers or notable elevation changes. Be familiar but don’t obsess with a mile by mile plan. It’ll actually wear you out mentally in the day or two before the race and you can never really plan for crowds and how your body will feel on the big day.
9. Try wearing exactly what you will wear for the race an a couple of your morning runs. I like to wear a cycling jersey with a headband to cover my ears, arm warmers, light gloves, shorts, compression sleeves. As I warm up I can easily and comfortable stow them in the back pockets of my jersey. On race day it is a good idea to wear an old long sleeve shirt or light sweater over your outfit you plan to race in. It’s usually cool in the morning before the race and then you can toss that old top at the start or an aid station. These clothes are often donated to the needy after. Don’t forget sunglasses and headphones. Make a special playlist with some very mellow music for the first part of the race and increase the intensity as you play through the list!
10. Plan to get to the event at least an hour before the start. Even if you are a little late you should still have enough time to walk around, jog for 10-15 minutes, do some running drills, wait on a porta potty line, and scope out the starting line. Are they lining people up according to pace? Have the start times been delayed? The frantic feeling you get when you might be cutting it close on time will take a lot out of your race. Wake up. and get there early.
Follow these 10 steps to last minute success and message me with your race report and questions anytime!!!!!!