Congratulations — you’ve decided to join the runner’s world and sign up for your first race! This is a huge milestone in your running career and you should be proud of yourself for signing up — races are expensive, so there’s no backing out now.
Starting out, it seems like a pretty simple concept — just run, eat, sleep and repeat until race day, right? Wrong. Training is more than just upping your mileage and increasing your speed, it’s about challenging yourself mentally and physically to increase your brain and body’s endurance and focus.
To make sure you’re ready to crush your run times, and maybe even win a medal, here are some tips for race training:
Plan your runs
Racing is serious business, which means you can’t just go out and run when you feel like it prior to the race. It’s best to run three to four times a week, with a range of different miles and types of runs for each day. To plan this, figure out how many weeks you have until your race. Don’t plan to do a lot of running the week prior to the race, as you will need to race and save your energy for the big day. Figure out how many miles you need to get to and, depending on your experience level, how much you can increase your mileage every week. Pinterest and running sites have a lot of great base plans to go off of.
Don’t just run. On your off days, get in some cross training activities—go to a yoga class, spend some time lifting weights, or maybe even go to a spinning class. The mix of cardio activities will help your body prepare for the race and prevent it from getting used to just running, which could hurt you more than help you.
Fuel your body
Committing to a cardio routine means that you’ll be burning a lot of calories, so it’s important to stay fueled. It’s different for every person, as each person’s body is built differently, but, on average, runners shouldn’t eat any less than 1,500 calories a day. Between 50 and 70 percent of your calories should be from carbs and the rest should be divided between healthy fats and proteins. You should also make sure to get enough potassium and calcium during your training to help with your recovery. Make sure to consult your doctor before deciding upon a specific macronutrient goal, but there are multiple apps like MyFitnessPal that help you stay on track.
You should always stay hydrated, but it’s especially important to stay hydrated during your training. Lots of running means lots of sweat, and you’re at a huge risk of dehydration if you’re not drinking water on a regular basis. Try to limit your soda, juice and alcohol consumption, especially the night or day before your run, so you’re ready to go.
Sleep is not to be ignored. Most races take place early in the morning, so you’ll want to be prepared for an early run. One of the best training techniques you can do is to complete your long runs at the start time of the race, which is usually on Saturday or Sunday morning at 5 or 6 a.m. Plan ahead to get enough sleep prior to that time and throughout the week so that when race day comes, you’ll be used to the rise and grind.
Dress for success
The importance of running clothes should not be ignored. When it comes to long-lasting, comfortable running gear, cheaper isn’t better. Look for brands who are known for their running gear; you don’t have to get the most expensive items, but for racing, you definitely want to spend more for quality items than spend less for a higher quantity of items. Most importantly, find a good pair of running shoes. Your feet should be cared for more than anything when it comes to running, so you want to treat them well. Everyone has different arches, pronation, and other factors that affect their running styles, so your best bet is to go to a business like Runner’s Depot that can measure your feet and running style to help you find the best running shoes for you. Paying attention to your clothes and shoes will make sure that you feel your best for race day.
Running isn’t easy, but it shouldn’t be the worst part of your day. The one thing every successful runner has in common is that they run often and run long, but never outrun their joy of running. This race may be one of the biggest challenges you will face — until your next one — but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to accomplish. No matter what hills, intervals or hurdles you may come across, you are capable of so much more than you can ever imagine, and use that to fuel your mind, your fun, and your run.