Relay ready: How to build up and switch off before race day

Not overdoing the running, sleeping well, and eating and drinking right are key on race week, writes Laura Dorgan

IF you’re just about to experience your very first relay race and have never ran a race before, building your jog/run to cover the five-mile distance can be easier than you think with a few simple progressions.

About three to four days a week when going for a walk, try and build up your jogging time throughout.

Taking walking breaks allows your body to recover, even as you’re increasing your distance. When you walk during your run workouts, you can erase fatigue before it gets you down.

For example: Walk for two minutes and then jog for one minute, and continue this for five miles. Then, as the weeks go on, try and reduce the walking time and increase the jog time.

If it’s your first race, don’t dwell too much on the exact race timing — getting over the finish line is a massive achievement in itself and that experience will stand to you going forward. After that you can gauge your times better for future events.

DON’T PUSH YOURSELF

For the week of the race, don’t add additional miles or intensity to your training regimen. You’re not going to get any fitter or faster in the week before your five miles so don’t try to cram for the final. Instead, run short distances at your race-pace early in the week. Some people like to rest the day before the race, while others like to do a 20-minute shake-out run to help them stay loose.

As one doesn’t give you any advantage over the other, it’s up to you to decide what feels the most comfortable.

Don’t introduce any new form of exercise that your body wouldn’t be used to, like a fitness class you never took part in before as it could lead to stiff and tired muscles which will have an impact on race day. Increasing workload this week will not only decrease your pace from lack of rest and recovery but it will also increase the risk of injury and you definitely don’t want that to scupper your enjoyment.

QUALITY SHUT EYE

Proper sleep is also vital. One of the things that will often keep you awake is the anxiety of being awake. But one night’s sleep will not make or break the race. In fact many experienced runners will tell you that the most important time to get a good night’s sleep is the night before the night of the race. Leading up to the race, focus making going to bed early a priority. This will train your body to sleep at the right times and if you do happen to be tossing and turning the night before the race, you’ll have plenty in reserve.

Figure out a bedtime routine that will help you feel relaxed. Read a book, watch a movie, or do some light stretching. Create a sound sleep environment by keeping the room cool, dark, and with minimal distraction. Put smartphones, computers, and anything else that might keep you up late in another room and switched off.

Before you go into bed, sit in a comfortable position and focus on your breathing for five minutes to lower your heart rate. Breathe in and out deeply through your nose and into your belly, tuning in to the sound and feeling of air moving through your throat.

Let random thoughts come and go. There is no pass or fail with this, it’s all about being relaxed and with your thoughts.

It’s amazing what a few focused minutes of deep breathing can do to relax you.

BE PREPARED

Days before the race pay attention to your afternoon and evening routines. Start cutting back on coffee and move your evening run to the morning if possible so you’ll be able to wind down easier. Steer clear of fatty and spicy foods or anything heavy as they can lead to digestion problems and keep you awake.

Don’t forget to stay hydrated — aim for two litres of water a day — and well fed. As race day gets closer pay even more attention to what you’re putting into your body. Easily digested, high-energy foods and plenty of water are your best friends this week.

Make sure you’re organised and have everything ready the night before, even earlier if possible. Before you head to bed, have your clothes, runners, food, water, and so on ready to go. Set two alarms just in case and have all iPods, earphones, and phones — this will help peace of mind in getting to sleep.

Take a few minutes to picture race day. Imagine waking up well rested and envision a smooth, uneventful trip to the starting line. Visualise yourself running strong and the incredible feeling of crossing the finish line. This is all you may need to calm and relax your nerves.

Your performance has more to do with the training you’ve done already. Then tack on quality nutrition and sleep the week before the race to really set yourself up for success.

Whether you sleep soundly or for only a few hours, remember your foundation will support you through every mile.

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