It’s the stuff of nightmares; arriving at a race and realising that you’ve forgotten something or crossing the finish line disappointed and feeling the frustration of realising that you’ve made a huge error in your preparation. So if you’ve got your sights set on a 5k this spring here are some top tips to help ensure that your race goes smoothly and swiftly.
Have you considered race day logistics?
It sounds obvious but have you considered all aspects of race day and not just the running part?! Often runners are so focused on the race itself that they neglect the basic logistics of race day. To avoid unnecessary stress be sure to check out fundamental details such as transport and parking arrangements and number and timing chip collection beforehand.
Are you wearing the right shoes?
Have you ever given thought to the shoes that you race in? Did you know that your choice of shoe can influence your running economy (the amount of energy that you have to expend to run at a certain pace)? Recent research has shown that there is a lower economic cost in running in lighter shoes, which could potentially help you to shave some time off of your 5k personal best. As 5k is on the shorter end of the distance spectrum, it may be a worthwhile investment to trade your heavier trainers in for some lighter racing shoes. However, if you are susceptible to lower leg injuries and require a little more cushioning proceed with caution, you may be better off sticking to your regular training shoes.
Have you consumed some carbs?
What you eat before exercise can have a direct impact on the type of fuel that you subsequently burn. For a 5k, your muscles will use predominantly carbohydrate as fuel opposed to fat so you need to ensure that carbs are at the top of your pre-race meal agenda. Opt for carbs that are easily digestible and relatively low fibre such as toast or bread with jam or honey and a banana. As with any aspect of sports nutrition, ensure that your pre-race meal has been tried and tested in training first.
Have you warmed up well?
5k is a relatively short distance so you want to be ready to go from the start. This means priming your body and its energy systems beforehand with a good warm up. Generally the shorter the distance and the faster the pace, the longer you’ll need to spend warming up. You should look to start your warm up around 30-45 minutes before the start time of the race. One of the main physiological aims of a warm up is to increase your heart rate so you’ll need to get your jog on.
Aim for 10-15 minutes of jogging, starting at a very easy pace and gradually becoming progressively quicker. Increasing your heart rate has a number of performance boosting effects: It increases blood flow and therefore oxygen to the muscles, and increases the temperature and pliability of the muscles. That gives you a greater range of movement so in theory, you are less likely to injure yourself. Once your muscles are warm, it’s a good idea to wake up those neuro-muscular pathways by doing some dynamic stretching and running specific drills.