Before engaging in any physical activity there are certain things you must always do in preparation, this is not all about warm-ups and stretches. The way you prepare will have a big impact on your performance and this blog will point you towards what you should be addressing.
Actually, this is a bit of a misconception, there is not an optimum number of hours you must sleep before a big race. It is not critical how many hours you actually sleep on the eve of performing, it is how many hours sleep you get on the nights leading up to it. If you have not had sufficient sleep over the three or four nights prior to your big event, then this can affect your body’s ability to recover and may affect your concentration also.
Your body needs to be fuelled before a big race, and this means loading up on carbohydrates the day before you run. On the morning of the race top up your blood glucose levels and your liver glycogen stores. A typical pre-race breakfast would contain around 200 grams of carbs with no fat. How long you eat before a race really depend on the individual and what you are eating, as standard a light breakfast roughly three hours before you run should be fine.
Everybody knows how critical it is to warm-up thoroughly before any level of physical exercise. Absurdly the shorter the race the more important the warm-up, due to the psychological as well as the physical benefits. Warming up properly prepares your body for further exercise, it increases your heart rate, gets blood pumping around the muscles and tissues and also helps to activate enzymes for aerobic energy production. Another benefit of warming up is to increase your muscle temperature to avoid muscle injuries.
There are three phases that play a big part of a good warm up:
- Gentle Running – jog at a leisurely pace for ten minutes, whilst running slowly pick up your pace a little so your jog almost ends up at your normal running pace. If your race is a short one, then your warm up should be longer.
- Stretching – you need to stretch for about fifteen minutes after your jog, it helps to prepare the muscles for longer strides later. You should not be doing more than three or four reps of each of your stretches, and do not hold the stretch for more than a couple of seconds.
- Jog Again – resume running and shake your legs out thoroughly, then after about five minutes stride for around 100 meters up to your natural race pace.
You should time your warm-ups, so they are finished about five minutes before you race, keep moving till you actually start as you don’t want to bring your core temperature down. If you start your warm-up too early, then this can undo all the benefit that you have achieved.
Finally, during the race keep hydrated all the way, depending on the length of your run then you may need to take on board some more fuel, bananas and slow energy release bars are ideal for this purpose. If you undertake all of the above, then you will be fully prepared to enjoy your race and perform at your best.