You might think you have your warm-up routine down. A few hamstring swings, and you're ready to go, right?
On race day, you need a forward-thinking strategy to help your muscles—and your mind—get ready for when the gun goes off. We have five simple steps that will help you perform at your best and feel great during and after the race.
Step 1. Shake it out.
Shakeout runs are typically the miles you log the days leading up to the race, but it might be time to rethink that concept. Many pro runners actually complete their last shakeouts immediately after waking up on race day. Running just a half-mile before eating breakfast is a great way to get your muscles going and get stress out of your system. The night before, plan a brief loop so you leave nothing to chance on race day. The next morning, hop out of bed and take those first running steps well ahead of the race. This will give you time to wake up, process the day and temperature and feel out anything else that is up in the air until race morning.
Step 2: Apply Some Special Sauce
We know you've heard of muscle lotions for recovery, but there's new evidence that suggests using the right ointment, pre-race, can propel you to a PR.
Right before you pin your bib on and head out the door, grab Topical Edge's Performance & Recovery Lotion and apply it to your legs. The lotion delivers sodium bicarbonate directly to the muscles through your skin, promising to help you go harder, faster. In clinical trials, athletes who used Topical Edge were able to complete 20 percent more high intensity intervals than those who did not use the product, and they actually felt a reduced rate of perceived exertion—by nearly 3 percent.
Outside the lab, our running editor put it to the test before a local 5K. "I didn't believe something so simple could help with that terrible muscle burn in the third mile," says Ali Nolan, who's been running for more than 10 years. "I kept expecting my legs to fatigue, but instead, I felt powerful all the way up to the finish," she says.
Step 3. Incorporate dynamic stretches.
OK, now it's time for some movement. Start with a whole body wake-up.
- Roll your neck, then your shoulders. Make small circles with your arms. Repeat on the left side.
- Next, circle your hips. Stretch your arms up in the air, then bend to the right, then to the left.
- Step your right leg up, balancing on your left leg. Grab your right knee and stretch the leg, still bent, to the right side, opening your right hip.
- Complete five hamstring swings on each leg, first to the back and front, then laterally.
- Do a few ankle circles.
- Walk on your toes, then on your heels.
- Perform three forward power jumps on each side, then do three power jumps backwards on each side.
End your wakeup with a nice, light run. As you go through the jog, continue to loosen up your joints and take notice of anything that feels tight or rigid. Don't worry about looking weird—perform any movement you need to get those limbs in check. Take time to work on those muscles and joints so they feel ready to go.
Step 4. Strides
From a light jog, begin a stride progression. Imagine yourself shifting like a car. Start in a low gear, then get progressively faster until you have a nice sprint going. Finally, slow down smoothly and turn around to jog to your starting point. The sprint should not be all-out but should instead focus on driving your knees up and engaging your power muscles (translation: your butt).
Repeat the strides three to five times.
Step 5. Visualize and attack.
By this point, you should feel like your body is revved up. Make your way to where you plan to start the race. Now, think about your course strategy, your planned splits and your goal time. Close your eyes and see yourself running through each mile at the time you intend, feeling fresh and fast. Visualize yourself passing runners on stretches and staying with a pack. Finally, picture the finish and imagine yourself finishing strong. Remind yourself of any mantras you have and all the positive words associated with your race. When you open your eyes, check your shoelaces and prepare to take off.
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