Tips to optimize your racing potential on race day
Racing to your optimal performance level is complicated because there are so many factors that go into performing at a high level. A lot goes into running fast. It’s so much more than being physically prepared. I know a lot of runners who are in peak fitness shape and yet cannot perform to the level they’d hoped to have achieved. Why is that? Well, there are.
Why is that?
There are ways in which we can prime our bodies (and our mind) in order to perform at our best. The more prepared you are, the better you will perform!
Before Race Day
Before race day even arrives, there are routines you can follow to prime your body to perform well. When you follow a routine, not only do you prepare your body for the challenges ahead, but you also get your mind in the right spot.
- Run the day before the race. I tend to get flat and lethargic on race day if I take off the day before a race.
- Give yourself ample time between your last run and race time.
- Do strides at slower than, at race pace, and slightly faster than race pace the day before the race.
- Mentally prepare by visualizing success.
- Create a race plan with SMART goals.
- Pack your race bag.
- Create and follow a race day checklist (where to park, when to warm up, etc)
On race day, give yourself ample time to get to the race, acclimate to the conditions, and warm up properly. This should include packet pickup, bathroom runs, and then a few extra minutes for the unknown – pinning on your bib, putting on your compression socks, linking your GPS, etc.
I like to be at a race about 75 minutes before the race is supposed to start. This gives me 45-60 minutes to warm up and 15 to take care of everything else.
During my warm-up routine, here are the things I do to make sure I’m prepped and ready to race fast once the gun goes off.
Race Day Routine
- Pre-run drills – this includes glute activation exercises such as clam shells, donkey kicks, fire hydrants and squats.
- Start jogging slowly and build pace throughout until you are sweating (10-25 minutes). My warm-up pace is super slow compared to most everyone else, but that is a personal preference and it works for me.
- Do active warm-up drills. This includes walking drills (active stretches) and moves to more dynamic drills (such as A-skip, B-skip, hops, and skips).
- Change into racing attire. Put on my racing shoes and singlet, then put warm up clothes back on to stay warm.
- Strides. In the minutes before the race, I do 4+ strides starting easy and building in both pace and length. This allows my body to gradually get used to the pace.
Now that I’ve done this entire routine, not only am I mentally prepared but also physically primed to race fast. All that is left is to wait for the starter’s gun.
After the Race
After the race, I change clothes and shoes and begin my cool down. My cool down pace is typically measured in time only – focusing on covering, for example, 15 or 20 minutes regardless of the pace.
There you have it. My pre-race and race day routines to running as fast as possible.
What do you think of the routine?
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Marc is a middle school Special Education teacher and the distance track and cross country coach who also works with distance runners seeking personal bests. He blogs at TrainwithMarc.com and writes a Friday newsletter. You can find everything Marc is working on here.