Race season is coming soon – whether that’s 5Ks, 10Ks, cycling, triathlons or racewalking – and your preparation should be underway if you want to perform well in competition. If you have slacked off your training a bit this winter – especially if you live in the Midwest or Northeast regions where winter never, ever seems to end – it’s time to get to work.
For some of us, the race season is so short that we shouldn’t be unprepared or caught off-guard when it arrives, or it may cost us several weeks to one month to simply hit our stride. Assuming that you have a base level of fitness and aren’t starting from being totally sedentary, you can fast-track your race preparation a bit. (Newbie runners typically need about three to six months to train for a 5K,10K or half-marathon.)
If you’re a new racer, these recommendations will help with getting into race shape quickly. And if you’re already a racing veteran, these are good reminders of what to do to hit PRs or improve this competitive season.
- Create a training plan – Determine which races you want to participate in, and work backwards from the first one so you know how much time you have between today and race day. Ideally, you should have a minimum of several weeks to a month to prepare, depending on race length.Of course, the length of the race will determine your specific distance goals in training (running, cycling or swimming). Work from your most recent exercise sessions to build mileage gradually (typically no more than 10% per week) so that your body adapts to the distance. You can access lots of training plans online for guidance, and be sure to schedule and commit to workouts. Establish goals with training to keep pushing yourself.The majority of your workout time should be dedicated to the race discipline, i.e., running or cycling – and outdoors, preferably in the weather and altitude that you will race in.
- Cross train – Having said that, it can be hard on the body to run six days a week, so cross-training can help improve endurance while reducing impact to the bones and joints. Try the Zero Runner for a no-impact way to replicate running outdoors without all the pounding. Take a cycling class or do intervals on an elliptical, climber or rower to challenge your body differently.Strength training helps your muscles deal with the stress you are putting on them, and working the core is important for any type of race. Hit the weight room for short sessions twice per week if possible for better overall conditioning and performance.
- Stretch and recover – Competitors naturally work hard and push themselves. Remember, however, that without recovery, intense training can lead to fatigue and potential injuries. Be sure to stretch after workouts, use a foam roller, get massages or visit your chiropractor regularly. Take rest or light recovery days and force yourself to slow down. Hydrate and eat healthy. In the long run, your body will be stronger and your race performance better.
- Listen to your body – Sounds cliched, but runners are among the worst when it comes to ignoring pain and persisting through injuries. If you do this during race prep, you may be sidelined for the actual race day. So be smart and attend to aches, pains, illness, exhaustion, etc. Modify your training plan or adjust goals if necessary. Let go of pride and aim to cross the finish line if that’s all you can do this time. There will always be other races – provided you take care of yourself.