It seems like fall was created to be marathon season. The fresh, cool air makes for perfect running conditions and that gorgeous, brightly colored autumnal landscape is the perfect backdrop for an uplifting morning run. Whether you’re a seasoned runner or a beginner looking for a way to dive into the world of 5ks and 10ks, now is the best time of year to sign up for a race.But sometimes life gets in the way and we don’t end up having as much time to train as we had hoped for.
Don’t: Overwork yourself the week before.
You can’t end-load your training after weeks of procrastinating, as much as we wish it worked that way. “The purpose of the week before the race truly is to rest up and keep your legs loose,” says Jenny Hadfield, running coach and co-author of “Marathoning for Mortals” and “Running for Mortals.” “It’s kind of counterintuitive because your nerves, especially if it’s your first race, tend to increase a week out, so you want to get in those harder or longer workouts as extra insurance,” she adds. But doing that will only leave you fatigued and tired come race day, hurting your performance instead of helping it.
“There’s no need to run fast the last week before a race because you really can’t change your conditioning during the last seven days before an event,” adds Jeff Galloway, a member of the 1972 Olympic team, founder of the Galloway Marathon Training Program and author of “Galloway’s Book on Running.” Both experts suggest nothing more than a few easy, 20-minute runs the week before to maintain what you’ve got. There’s no need to continue cross-training or add anything else in.
Do: Keep your diet consistent.
Avoid any big dietary changes. “Eat familiar foods and normal portions,” Hadfield suggests. Identify the foods that your body normally digests well—and stick to those. Also, stay away from highly processed foods. “Making major changes can often deprive you of the nutrients you have been getting, and you may interrupt your blood sugar level, which causes your brain and body to not work as well as they normally do,” Galloway adds.
Don’t: Carb-load the night before.
Contrary to what you might have heard, you don’t need to eat a pound of pasta the night before a race. In fact, you don’t want to load up on anything the whole week leading up to it. “Too much loading can lead to unloading during the race or immediately after, and that can be embarrassing,” Galloway says. Both Galloway and Hadfield suggest eating a modest-sized dinner of whatever foods you know will sit well with you. For some people, that might mean fish, rice and vegetables, notes Hadfield, and for others, a burger. Up your carbohydrate intake just a tad, and avoid sauces that have a lot of fat in them, Galloway adds, “because they can cause problems in digestion that can stick around the next morning.”