According to Dr. Scott Weiss, a board certified athletic trainer, exercise physiologist, licensed physical therapist and the founder of Bodhizone Physical Therapy in New York City, when training for a marathon, the risk for making a training mistake that could affect your performance increases the closer you get to race day.
This means that out of your entire training cycle, the week before your race is one of the most important.
“The last leg of race training is crucial for runners,” says Weiss. “It’s often not the missed workouts and long runs that cause marathoners the most anxiety, but rather the final countdown in the week leading up to race day.”
In the past, Weiss has worked with some of the world’s most elite athletes including NFL and NHL players and several U.S. Olympic teams. As an expert on both the physical and nutritional aspects of training, these are a few important tips he recommends that runners follow in the days and hours leading up to a marathon.
- Reduce Training Volume: “Cut back on the distance and intensity of your training runs during the two-week period prior to the marathon, eliminating long and hard efforts,” says Weiss. As the final week before your race approaches, decide whether you want to take one or two days to rest completely (e.g. no running) before the day of your marathon.
- Less is Best: “Remember, there are no workouts the week prior to the marathon that will enhance your preparedness for the race,” says Weiss. If you’re feeling particularly tired, either physical or mentally, or your legs are feeling fatigued it’s a good idea to rest. “Listen to your body,” Weiss advises.
- Stretch: A simple piece of advice: “Keep stretching as much as possible during the couple of weeks prior to the marathon,” Weiss says.
The week leading up to your marathon:
- Weiss reminds runners that as you begin to reduce your training volume, you won’t be burning as many calories. “You may gain one or two pounds if you don't cut back a bit on the quantity of your servings early in the week,” he said.
- “Hydrate well the week before the marathon and in particular, during the carbohydrate loading period—three days prior to the marathon,” says Weiss. “Research indicates that carbohydrates convert to glycogen more effectively when accompanied with the consumption of water. This is the time when you may gain a couple of pounds, but don't worry about it. This will be your energy fuel during the marathon!”
- Scale back on fats on increase your carbohydrate intake. “Choose foods for lunch and dinner that are high in carbohydrates like pasta, potatoes and rice,” says Weiss. “Don't neglect fruits, vegetables, and some protein sources, too.”
The night before your marathon:
- Don’t eat anything you’re not familiar with. “Be sure to eat carbohydrate products that have been "tried and proven" during your training period,” says Weiss. “Keep pasta sauces simple, avoiding high fat varieties. Avoid eating lots of salad items and vegetables as these can cause digestive problems which may prove to be troublesome on race day.”
- “Stick to water during the evening meal,” Weiss advises. He suggests avoiding caffeine and alcohol so that it won’t be difficult to fall asleep and also because they are diuretics, which contributes to dehydration.