By: Vicki Little
From the looks of my Facebook feed, there is either a great Groupon for mud spas going on or ’tis the season for running races. These days, you can find a race that will tickle anyone’s fancy: Triathlons, running in mud, running in the dark while glowing, running through paint, running with a tutu … the list is endless. With a little training, anyone can participate in a race. Here are some tips to make every race a successful one:
1. Get Checked. Schedule a visit with your doctor to make sure you are medically cleared to start training and run a race. Ask for suggestions on how to get physically ready.
2. Be Prepared. Do some research on your race and become familiar with what you will be running on, the typical weather conditions during that time of year, the exact route of the course, how much water you need to be completely hydrated, and what snacks/chews will keep you in the running. Marathonrookie.com advises consuming 6-8 oz. of water every 20 minutes, and to weigh yourself before and after each run to make sure you get your body weight back to what it was before the run. You can do this by drinking water or sports drinks within 60 minutes after running.
3. Make a Plan. Write out a set plan to follow from the time you start training until the big day. There are actually quite a few online resources that will help you make a plan, such as these Hal Higdon guides for beginners through experts. Follow the guide as closely as possible, and take plenty of notes along the way.
4. Practice … Even When You Don’t Want To. Of course you need to put in the time for long runs and determine how to best pace yourself. But you also need to practice running in the environment (hilly, for instance) and in the temperature ranges expected on race day. There will be plenty of days you just won’t want to train, or days when you aren’t sure how you will fit training into your schedule. Do it anyway. You will be happy later. Get used to knowing you have what it takes to finish, even if you feel sluggish.
5. Recover. You should not run every day, and your rest days are just as vital as your running days. Truly rest on those days, and care for any pains you may have. Further, make sure you are getting the correct nutrition that will keep you strong during running days. Marathonrookie.com suggests that during training, 65% of your total calories should come from carbohydrates, particularly complex carbohydrates. 10% should come from protein and 20-25% of your total calories should come from unsaturated fats.
6. Slow It Down. A few weeks before the race, start tapering your training. It will take a bit for your body to recover, and you want to be in top shape.
7. Load It Up. Many runners know it is important to load up on carbs before a race, but it’s tricky figuring out how many carbs to eat and for how long. In an interview with Runners World in 2011, Monique Ryan, R.D., author of Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes, suggested starting two or three days before to make sure your muscles are filled with glycogen. Avoid high-fat foods and anything with fiber (such as some fruits and veggies) that will cause stomach problems. Instead try rice, tortillas, bananas, baked potatoes and white bread.
8. Choose Your Fuel. If the race is longer than an hour, runnersconnect.com recommends waiting until after the first 45 minutes to eat a stomach gel, chewy, bar, or a banana. It also warns to eat it with water rather than a sports drink to avoid cramps and side stitches. If you are feeling fatigued before the 45 minutes, you should eat then to avoid getting too tired.
9. Give It Your All And Stay Motivated. Stay focused, pace yourself, remember your training, and, most importantly, believe in yourself.
Vicki Little is a work-at-home mom with two young kids. A Colorado native, she is the Publisher and Editor of Macaroni Kid Aurora and Downtown Denver. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering, reading, camping, or enjoying a bottle of wine with friends.
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