Time always seems to fly by while training for a race. With each workout crossed off on the training plan, race day gets closer and closer. As race day approaches, most runners focus on preparing for race morning and planning logistics for the weekend – but fail to prepare for the week before the race.
What you do the week before a race is nearly as important as what you do on race morning. Just one mistake during race week could cause an upset on race day. Preparing for a race or even a long run is more than just a one day process.
The week leading up to a race always brings unexpected anxiety, no matter how thoroughly we train. Despite all the long runs we’ve completed and how strong we feel, running lower mileage during taper brings it’s fair share of uncertainties.
During the week before a race or long run, it’s important to remind yourself that you have practiced. You’ve put in the miles, the workouts and the training to be successful. And now, the most important part of training is approaching.
Whether you’re running a 5k, 10k, half marathon or full marathon, the week before a race is key to your success. All of the seemingly small choices you make, like whether or not you run the day before a race, what you do at night before the race, what you eat, and everything in between suddenly become very important.
While fall races are reaching their peak these next few weeks, here are a few things to remember to do the week before a race.
12 Things To Do the Week Before a Race
Fit in a few shake out runs: maintain running frequency but shorten distance.
A good rule of thumb the week before a race is to maintain the same number of runs during the week, but shorten their distance. For example, if you normally run 4 times during the week, complete 3 week day runs leading up to your race weekend. Decrease their overall mileage so you are running no more than 60% of your peak week mileage (including the race mileage!) the week leading up to your race.
Related: Taper Tips and Race Week Tricks
Swap a cross training or strength training workout with a rest day.
Remember that it’s okay to switch around the order of your workouts. Try to avoid completing any strength training or tough cross training workouts the couple days leading up to the race. If you regularly complete a cross training and strength training workout each week, swap one of them for a rest day and complete the other at the beginning of the week.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
Hydration is especially important this week! Drinking plenty of water will help you not become dehydrated on race day. It will help you stay healthy and aid in recovery from training runs leading up to race day. You should aim for drinking half your body weight in ounces of water each day. Remember that these liquids should come from water and water only – no sodas, alcohol or sugary drinks.
Stretch and foam roll – but don’t do anything different.
During the week before a race, you’ll want to make sure your muscles are as loose and limber as possible. Continue regularly stretching after each workout and add in some extra stretches, recovery yoga or foam rolling on your rest days. However, make sure you don’t try any new stretches this week to avoid anything that will leave you sore for race day.
Look through race logistics and plan out race day.
While you have some extra time during taper, look through the course map, start times, transportation, elevation and any other details that you will need to know for race day. Plan what you will use for fuel, how often you will eat, when you will go to the bathroom, and if you will stop for aid stations. Create a game plan for the night before the race – what you will eat, when you want to be in bed, and how you’ll spend the majority of your evening. Having things planned out ahead of time help you stay focused and avoid unhealthy temptations before the race.
Cut down on fiber 3 days prior to the race.
One of the biggest fears of nearly every runner is having an unexpected bathroom emergency on race day. To avoid any issues that might slow you down, try decreasing your fiber intake 3 days prior to the race until race day. This helps ensure that your digestive system is fully functioning and cleared from any uncomfortable issues on race morning.
Begin increasing carbohydrates 3 days prior to the race.
What you eat the week before a race has a big impact on your race day performance. Another way to avoid issues on race day is to begin slightly increasing your intake of carbohydrates 3 days before the race. This doesn’t mean that I go all out with spaghetti for every meal, but make a conscious effort to incorporate carbs throughout the day leading up to your race. These carbohydrates provide quick acting energy on race day to help prevent your from hitting the wall or bonking when your run longer distances.
Related: 10 Great Healthy Snacks for Runners
Pick an awesome race outfit.
Nothing helps your excitement grow like spending time picking out an outfit you are excited to wear! Plan what you will wear on race day, which means checking the weather forecast. Check out the hourly if possible, and plan for any changes in temperature that may occur throughout the race. Head to a local thrift shop to buy some throwaway clothes for the start – find some inexpensive some sweatpants or a sweatshirt that you can throw off in the corrals right before the race starts.
Look through your training log and training plan.
Dedicate some time the week before your race to sit down with your training log and read through all the months of training you have completed. Glance through your training log to remind yourself of all the mileage and hard workouts you have put in to get to race day. These activities are a great confidence booster, especially when you are experiencing nerves and anxiety from taper.
Complete in a walk or shake out run the day before the race.
Running a short, easy run is a great way to calm your nerves and relieve any lingering tight spots. If a short shakeout run of 2-3 miles will help calm your nerves, then head out the day before the race for some slow miles. If you find that running the day before the race is a little too much for your body or schedule, head outside for a relaxed walk. Anything that gets your legs moving for a little bit will do the trick.
Go to bed early.
The night that matters most is two nights before your race, not the night before. I always used to stress about not being able to fall asleep the night before a race – but as it turns out, that doesn’t matter very much. While getting enough sleep throughout training is crucial for recovery, it is especially important the week before a race. During race week, make it a priority to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Cutting a few hours of your TV time each day will pay off greatly when you hit the starting line feeling rested and refreshed.
Don’t try anything new! Stick to your routine.
This is the most important concept to remember. The week before a race it is crucial to stick to your routine and avoid trying anything new. That means no new foods, stretches, exercises, clothes, etc. You have practiced each run throughout training with a routine, and race day will be no different.
Race week is one of the most exciting times for any runner. Amidst all the nerves, anxiety and stress, it’s important to grant yourself some time to sit back, relax and appreciate all the hard work you’ve put in during training.
Happy race week!
Preparing for race day? Download this free race day checklist to make sure you don’t miss a thing!