Trackstaa considers the latest physiological and scientific research alongside some key running style tips to help you improve your performance.
The buzz of race day, the flutters of excitement you get in the pit of your stomach, gradually increasing in intensity, the unavoidable nerves that overwhelm you as you get closer to ‘go-time’, have, over the course of the global pandemic, dwindled into a nothing more than a memory akin to a vague dream. For almost all of us, it’s been far too long.Whilst we’ve all been going cold turkey from the drug we’ve got an insatiable appetite for, it’s worth reminding ourselves that without proper preparation, without the correct race day mindset, without taking care of the, so-called, little things, your chances of performing to your absolute potential are severely diminished; I don’t care how much you’ve smashed your most recent training block.Now, this article isn’t designed to give you all the answers. In fact, much of the race day ritual is a bit of trial and error, maybe even a bit of superstition. Take our very own Alfie, for example, who religiously warms up for 14 and a half minutes, no more, no less, after he did it once and performed far above expectations. So, the point of these tips is not to tell you what you have to do, but just give you a bit of helpful guidance based on the things we’ve found useful. Mix it up, try different things and see what works for you.Trackstaa’s top race day tipsGet to the race on time – In fact, get to the race as early as you can. You can never be early, but you can certainly be late. You want to arrive at the race venue focussed on nothing but preparing correctly and thinking about the race and it’s impossible to do that if you are rushed or stressed or both. Give yourself at least an hour before the start time so you can get used to the surroundings and warm up fully. Personal preference is 90 minutes before the Gun. If it's a race where you have to walk the course, then usually around 2 hours.Get your race day nutrition right – Eating too close to the start time will cause cramps but your body needs the right fuel, so try and consume a meal rich in carbohydrates usually around 3 hours before the race. Try and get your caffeine hit too as it’s proven to improve concentration, endurance and muscular strength. Personal preference again, is caffiene around 75 minutes before go time. As you get closer to the start, grab some energy gels and easily digestible carbs like Jaffa cakes or performance drinks. Your hydration plan should have started 48 hours before but don’t forget to sip some water throughout the day of the race too.Wear your best kit – Look good, feel good, run fast. Enough said. Psychologically, you get a boost, when feeling like you look the part. It's all about those small % gains.Take extra warm-up gear – If you can, take two pairs of running shoes, your daily mileage trainer for your warm-up and save your quickest shoes for the race. That way, when you pull on your race shoes, you’ll literally feel like you’re running in a new pair of shoes. In the same vein, take 2 pairs of socks, one thicker, heavier pair to warm up in and your lightest, springiest pair for the race. The later is slightly excessive, but this again gives a psychological boost.Go to the toilet – Yes, really, don’t do a Paula.Visualise your race – As your sipping your coffee or easing into your warm-up, think about the race, how it’s going to feel, where it’s going to hurt and how you’re going to react. The fewer surprises the better. This helps your preparation for the race and your tactics.Conduct a thorough warm-up – You shouldn’t be making your warm-up routine up on the day, so make sure it’s planned out in advance. It needs to be at least 10 minutes’ worth of running, usually building from a jog into a steadish run. Make sure to include some effective dynamic stretches to get those muscles and nerves primed for maximum effort. Think about building in some specific running drills such as A-Skips, B-Skips and high knees. Finish off your warm-up with 2 to 3 60-80m strides to get the legs turning over and engaging those fast-twitch muscle fibres.Embrace the nerves and enjoy it – Nerves are good, in fact without them we wouldn’t have survived as a species. It’s a natural hormone response that causes the body to produce adrenaline in response to a perceived threat. It’s vital for performance optimisation. Embrace it, enjoy it, live for it because, my goodness, haven’t we all missed it.