Mental Preparation Leading Up To A Peak Race

Everything you can do to be ready on race day

Preparation for a peak performance starts months before the race even occurs.  The key is to write down your goal and develop a pre-race routine.  These two steps will make your running second nature and have you mentally prepared for success come race day.

Below, you’ll find 9 tips to help get your mind and body on point so you can race your best.

Identifying your racing goal is the first step.  It gives you a benchmark to visualize, and the ability to check your progress during your training.  Additionally, think about why you want to achieve your goal. Do you want to better your health and fitness? Are you setting an example for your children?  Or maybe you just agreed to run a marathon with friends.  These are all sources of motivation that will help you overcome rocky times with a can-do attitude.

Establishing Race Day Routine

Establishing a race day routine is something a lot of runners overlook. Having a plan in place creates a mental road map that gets you to the starting line confident you’ve completed the necessary preparation to succeed. Below are some key factors to consider when developing your routine.

Night before Race

  • Eat your favorite pre-race meal. Some people like a heavy carbohydrate meal like pasta; others prefer a high protein diet such as salmon salad.     
  • Check your equipment. Put your bib on your race top or timing chip on your shoe, and pack a bag with your race top/shorts, shoes, watch, music, and any snacks you’ll use during the race. 
  • Mentally think about your race strategy.  Review your race goal and pace. Visualize yourself feeling strong and fresh as you run along the course.  
  • Get a good night sleep.  Even If you’re restless and can’t sleep, stay off your feet to keep your legs fresh.   

Morning of the Race

  • Breakfast– How long before the race should you eat? What will you eat?
  • Race nutrition – Will you use gels or energy drinks? How often should you use them during the race?
  • Take a hot shower/bath and use a foam roller or massage stick to get your muscles warmed up.
  • Pre-race warm-up: How long before the race will you warm up, for what length, and what mobility drill or stretching will you do.   
  • Have a plan to get to the starting line.  Leave early enough to find a parking spot, or have a friend drop you off so you don’t waste time and energy stressing.
Carly mentally preparing for an upcoming race
Establishing Race Day Routines

Once you decide on a routine, begin experimenting to find out what works, and what doesn’t.  Try a few different meal options for dinner and breakfast before a hard interval session.  Long runs are a great time to test nutrition products like gels and energy drinks to see what keeps you hydrated and feeling fresh.  When deciding on a warm up, it’s important to find the minimal effective dose.  Some runners waste too much energy running a long warm or doing too many drills.  The goal is to warm up your body just enough so that your body is not in shock when the race starts. If you keep a training journal, take notes annotating how you feel after experimenting with different meals and warm-ups.  This will give you a chance to go back and review what works best for you.

Finally, if your goal is to run a half marathon, find a 5K and 10K to race during your training build up.  These races will act as stepping-stones, easing you into the distance, and provide you with race day experiences to perfect your routine.

The more you are able to practice your routine, the better prepared and confident you will be when you step up to the starting line. When fear or anxiety enter your mind, remember what you’ve done to set yourself up for success.  

This post was brought to you by Jon Anderson.  Jon is a former NJ State Champion, Footlocker Finalist and ran collegiately for West Point.  Since graduating, Jon served 5 years in the United States Army as an artillery officer.  Jon has PR’s of 13:58 for 5k, 30:43 for 10k, and 54:19 for 10 miles.  To read about Jon’s comeback from Achilles surgery, head to his blog here.

For more stories about training to be the best runner you can be, look at the posts: Training consistencies, running to your full potential, workout ideas for all runners.

Need a running coach for your next race?

A coach will create the training plan so you can focus on your running goals!

Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT & USATF Certified Running Coach
Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT & USATF Certified Running Coach

Marc is a USATF Track and Field & Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT O2 certified running coach. I have more than 19 years of experience running and more than 10 years of experience coaching runners. Click for more information!

Marc is a middle school teacher and coach but also works with distance runners online. I help distance runners around the globe by providing support, writing customized training plans and designing workouts to help them reach their racing goals. I write for my blog every Wednesday morning and newsletter every Friday morning.

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