IMG_0437Words by: Matt Fitzgerald, acclaimed author, world-class running and triathlon coach and sports nutritionist

The last 24 hours before a running race can be a time of anxiety and uncertainty. Use these tips to stay worry-free and set yourself up for a great experience. 

  1. Do a short workout.

A short workout is better than none at all the day before a race. A sensible format is 20 minutes at low intensity followed by four to six hard efforts lasting 15 seconds apiece. This will relieve mental and physical tension and keep the body primed for performance.

  1. Stay off your feet.

Other than your short run, you should keep physical activity to a minimum. Even spending too much time walking around the race expo may leave your legs feeling beat-up on race morning. So put your feet up and relax.

  1. Carbo-load (maybe).

If your upcoming race will take longer than 90 minutes to complete, you will benefit from carbo-loading before it. There are two ways to do it: Get 70 percent of your total calories from carbs for the last three days before the event or eat 4.5 grams of carbs for every pound you weigh on the last day before the race. A recent study found that runners who met these requirements before running the London Marathon finished the event 13.4 percent faster than did runners of the same gender, age, body weight, training volume and marathon experience. Choose familiar foods that have always worked well for your body in the past. Now is not the time to experiment.

  1. Don’t overhydrate.

You are not a camel. You cannot store vast quantities of water and thereby forestall dehydration during tomorrow’s race. Drinking more than you need will only serve to increase the frequency with which you have to visit the bathroom. Just drink normal amounts of water.

  1. Get your gear together.

There’s nothing worse than showing up at a race venue and realizing you forgot something important. To avoid this scenario, create a race gear checklist and go through it the day before your race or as you pack for out-of-town events.

  1. Plan for race morning.

If you haven’t done so already, take some time to make a detailed plan for race morning. Decide when you will wake up, how you will get to the starting area, what you will do with your warm-up gear, etc. Having a good plan in place will not only help you avoid mishaps but will also limit the amount of energy-sapping stress you experience on race morning.

  1. Visualize a hard but successful race.

When you lie down in bed on the night before a race, take some time to mentally rehearse the event. Imagine the effort, fatigue and discomfort you will feel as you push toward the finish line. Anticipating a realistic amount of discomfort will prepare you mentally to handle it better during the race. But do be sure also to imagine a successful finish!

** Matt Fitzgerald is an acclaimed author, world-class running and triathlon coach and sports nutritionist. His mission is to inspire, educate, and help athletes and fitness enthusiasts achieve their goals.  His books include Racing Weight, Diet Cults, The New Rules of Marathon Nutrition, and many more.