Preparation for Race Day (Part II): Two Weeks and Counting

Updated: Oct 3, 2019


The end is nigh. Whether it is winning gold, setting a personal best or making that comeback from injury. We will all benefit from ensuring that we make the best preparation for race day.

There are many forms of pre-race preparation that you may consider. Strength and functional conditioning and a graded exercise program with appropriate periods of recovery are key. But that's something you should have mastered already (if not, do book in a session with us!).

In other blogs posts from the LDN Preparation for Race Day series, we discuss the ‘Fuels’ the body needs to train and perform and also our ‘Race Day Guide’. In this blog post however, we'll look to maximise your performance during training, especially the last 2 weeks before your run, using:

  • Carb-loading strategies

  • Sleep hygiene

  • Pre-race training advice

2 weeks to go:

Carbohydrate-loading

What is Carb-loading? It is a dietary-training method of building stores of energy (glycogen) in the muscles and liver helping to maximise performance in endurance events. Whether it be an Ironman, Ultramarathon or long distance cycling your body will become almost deplete of its glycogen energy stored after about 90 minutes. This is not just the case of eat-as-much-pasta-as-you-can-the-night-before. There is a lot of science behind these systematic methods.

How to do it:

With endurance training you should be looking to peak 2-3 weeks prior to the race day and taper down your distance with shorter runs by 15-20%. This is where the fun starts. Your overall calorie intake must remain pretty much the same.

However, you should aim to reduce your normal fat intake from about 20% of our diet to about 5% by race day.

Our carbohydrate intake should increase to compensate so your muscles glycogen storage is optimised and your muscles are bursting with energy. A quick example would be, stop the butter on the potato, the spreads on the toast or the cheese in the pasta sauce and begin to replace these with healthier, lower fat additions and add slightly more carb. Doing this slowly ensures the body does not just store excess fat unnecessarily. And what did we learn from our training?

Our body does not like sudden changes or high demands.

There are shorter periods of time you can carbo-load and it depends on the distance of your race and previous experience. The Ultramarathon athletes should be aiming towards the 3-week mark and the half marathon athletes (and less) around 10 days prior to the race.

Let’s break it down for the Marathon runner and let’s presume you have been using the LDN PHYSIO Preparations for Race Day blog series to guide you, your dietary intake is appropriate and there are no medical reasons why this should be potentially a risk to your health.

  1. Firstly, work out how many pounds you weight. Use a simple conversation calculator. For example, 80kg is about 176lb.

  2. Aim for about 3.5-5.5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight. Therefore if you are 176lb then multiple 176 by 3.5 (and by 5.5) = 616grams (968) to find your range of carbohydrate intake. Yes, it is a heck of a lot of carbs, that is the point.

  3. 2 weeks before the race, start to taper down your training but continue to consume the same amount of carbohydrates despite your calorie intake now exceeding your output.

  4. With 1 week to go plan your meals well and begin to decrease your fat consumption from 20% to 5%.

  5. To meet this goal make sure every snack is carbohydrate-rich or you supplement with high carb-shakes. See above for ideas on types of foods and take a look at our LDN Nutrition Plans for further ideas.

  6. All of those previously avoided simple sugars, refined grains (white carbs) and starch food now get the green light to help you meet the demands of carb-loading.

  7. We recommend reducing your ‘brown-carb’ intake due to being high in fibre, along-side removing skin from potatoes, fruits and some cereals. Don’t be a victim of gastro-distress due to high fibre diets on race day.

  8. Eat bananas!

  9. Remember the golden rule of race day preparation – do not introduce anything new to your regime including your diet in the penultimate 24 hours.

Hopefully by following our carb-loading program, you will be able to ‘avoid the wall’ and maintain a high level of performance beyond expectations. If you stick to our evidence-based and researched carb-loading programme it should allow you to almost double your glycogen storage capacity. Put the science back in your training!

One week to go:

Sleep Hygiene

Ensuring that you sleep adequately will ensure that your body and mind has optimal performance and can improve your perceived exertion and fatigue. To read more about this topic, watch out for our upcoming blog post on the Importance of Sleep.

Top tip for race day: ensure that your body clock is ready to wake up 3-4 hours before the race after having your normal levels of quality sleep (this should be 7-9 hours of quality sleep). If your race starts at 08:00 and you need to eat and digest breakfast by 5 then slowly change your patterns of sleep so you are progressively waking an hour earlier until you feel that waking at 04:30 is no biggy. Not really the advice anyone wants to here but it will make the world of difference. Without alert cognitive function you can forget your body performing the way you want it to. This may be even more important to think about considering the night before the big race you’re unlikely to get much sleep.

Training

In the final week you will benefit from two-three light and moderate runs from 10-20% of your race day goal. So for a marathon runner that means two runs of 2-5 miles with 48 hours rest in-between. The 48 hour rule would apply for rest prior to race day. Some experts may recommend running the day before the race. However, despite a good training program the body goes through a natural recovery cycle following exertion and impact training. It is just science and we should respect that. Rest up!

If you are a triathlete then my tried and tested recommendations are to perform 2 preparation triathlons in the final week. It will depend if you are completing an Olympic length Triathlon or working towards a full Triathlon but the 20% rule has been seen to benefit each in their different distances. Work on 20% of the race distance and work at about 50-60% your race pace which can be monitored via a heart rate monitor. This will ensure you do not work within your 60-80% threshold of VO2 maximum and at a significant reduction in distance. I believe the psychological benefits you will get from breezing through this is huge. You will want to run more, you will be eager to go and confidence will be bursting.

Part II done. The clock is ticking!

Visit previous blogs in the ‘LDN PHYSIO Preparation for Race Day’ series looking at what the body needs to function at optimal performance: Fuels.

Stay tuned for the next blog post LDN PHYSIO ‘Race Day Guide’ for all your top tips on maximising your performance on the day.

Have you been going to the gym to do specific twice weekly strength and conditioning such as split squats and plyometrics?

Have you had a tried and tested strategy designed for you to gradually increase your running distance and performance that you are confident with?

Are you confident with your abilities to stay injury free whilst pushing hard to #beatyourbest for the big day?

If the answer to any of these is NO then a LDN PHYSIO initial Physiotherapy & Coaching session may be all you need to set you off in the direction to become a Stronger, Fitter, Londoner!

#running #racepreparation #runprep #carbloading #sleep #preparation

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