Get off on the Right Foot: How to Prepare for a Race

by | Jan 8, 2020 | Blog

It’s good to see humans listed in more lists of physical achievements within the animal kingdom. Sure, cheetas run faster, bears have better acceleration, and lizards can make it across water without sinking. What no other animal can hope to compare with is the human’s ability to run long distances.

Keep in mind this time-honored genetic legacy as you consider your own racing future. Mentality is a core component of how to prepare for a race. Keep the right attitude and your body is designed for the rest. 

Through in some nutrition, some comfortable gear, and a touch of training and you’ll be able to put miles between you and your past self. Why not join the 56 million other runners and joggers out there staying fit?

Read on to learn the particulars and learn tips for running a 10k, a 5k, or your neighborhood circuit in style.

How to Prepare for a Race

First things first, racing is about speed and it’s about finishing. Finishing is easy enough to do when you have no time limit and can meander. It’s another thing when you want to make a good showing.

Likewise, setting out to win puts you on the wrong footing. The only person you should be competing within a race is yourself. Setting personal bests and are the reasons to run in modern society.

Mental Prep

The first and last thing to consider in a race is your motivation. Setting the proper expectations about each day leading up to and after a race makes a huge difference in your outcome. 

Assigning a number to the percentage of training that is mental always comes across as hyperbole. Keep yourself focused and in the moment to prevent stressing out about performance and to block out the natural pains that come with peak effort. 

Part of running, initially, is learning your limits. You need to know where you are to strive beyond. Approach the start of your running training with a clear agenda and an eye towards incremental growth. 

The psychology behind running works the same as learning or developing any other skill, you can’t get better without doing it. The trick, then, is to not let yourself not do it.

Group Work

Look for a group to run with or friends and family to check in with. Adding people to your support group that holds you accountable for running provides a carrot and stick to your routine.

It’s easy to let a goal fall to the side when things get tough, so be prepared for highs and lows by creating a useful metric at the forefront. A chart or calendar where you can list how long you ran, how far, and some basic vitals make growth concrete.

Physical Prep

Now that you have the hard part out of the way, it’s time to get cracking on the other hard part. 

Like any other practice, there’s a way to do it right and way to do it wrong. When you practice wrong, you ingrain harmful habits that impede progress and make it more likely you’ll quit.

Good practice strengthens you from day to day and helps build and sustain resolve. 

With running you want to build up the muscles gradually to prevent injury but you also want to push yourself enough to get past your basal inertia.

Start your run at roughly the same time of day. This gives you a relatively stable temperature and weather conditions to gauge against. If you run indoors, this takes care of itself but try to move outdoors whenever possible.

You want to stretch thoroughly before you begin and take a warm-up period of 5-10 minutes to get yourself limber and your blood oxygenated. One of the major improvements you see when running is in your VO2 max, or amount of oxygen your blood can haul.

Grade Yourself

Interval training is best for building up stamina for running. You want o alternate between running and walking to push your body further without exhausting yourself.

At some point, you’ll hit a wall of comfort. This is where you have pushed yourself as hard as you can in regular conditions. From there you want to incorporate weights and slopes. You need to train harder than the route and challenges of the race itself.

Slopes gradually build up your calves and shins. Don’t hit anything above a 20-degree slope, you’re running, not hiking. 

Learn more about the difference between exercise pain and injury pain in this article.

Gear Prep

Much like training wrong, using the wrong gear impedes growth and increases the likeliness of both injury and quitting. 

Don’t skimp on picking up any old shoes. For proper running find a running shoe store and get measured. Running shoes need to breathe enough to keep your feet cool but also be tight enough to prevent slips that create blisters and callouses.

You want to get some lightweight gear that moves with your body. Shirts and shorts that won’t rub and create sores of their own. Keep in mind your sun situation and apply a hat, sunscreen, and shades as needed.

The rule of thumb is to dress about 20 degrees cooler than the external temperature. You will naturally heat up as you move and you want to avoid overheating. 

Gut Prep

The final step to preparing for a run is managing your gut. You need the right foods to keep you fueled up and proper hydration. 

Generally speaking, you want to up your carb intake a bit when you are running a 10k. For races lower than that limit, your body won’t consume your resources. The usual nutrition tips apply, stay with more nutrients, fewer filler calories.

Protein intake matters so get comfortable with your peanut butter and almond milk or similar low-fat fuel sources.

Drinkin in intervals when training and racing. Even a half cup of water can cause a cramp if consumed within 30 minutes of a race. Sip and rinse and spit if you feel your mouth is dry. 

Overall try not to take more than a mouthful of water every few minutes. This keeps you hydrated without bottoming out your gut. If it is particularly hot or more in the middle of the day than your usual training, step it up by another half-mouthful to compensate.

Surpass Your Expectations

This article ran through how to prepare for a race but their’s more to learn in the running world. For one thing, you want to make certain you read up on post-workout eats. Getting nutrients recharged through uptake makes a big difference for continuing fitness.

With the right mentality, coordinated training, and a few useful accessories, anything is possible. Approach fitness as a goal and leave the worry about meeting expectations in your wake.

Keep coming back here for more articles to keep you on the path of health and fitness.