The Benefits of a Pre-Race Routine

Eliminate anxiety and improve your PR with this oft-overlooked step

When it comes to having a good race—of any distance—preparation is key. Sure, you need a strategic approach to mileage, speed work, flexibility and strength, but there’s one aspect of performance that’s often overlooked, even though it’s of vital importance. The pre-race routine.

To have the perfect pre-race ritual, you’ll need to practice, practice, practice—during training, not racing. This means everything from your night-before nutrition to your warm up. If this sounds like unnecessary work, remember that eliminating question marks before the starting line will keep your mind focused on the road—and not on the anxiety that something could go wrong. You won’t arrive at the start line without your race number or encounter stomach issues a mile into your race because you decided to eat something different that morning. With an established routine, you’ll approach the race knowing you have done everything in your power to eliminate stress.

The best times do your pre-race routine dress rehearsals are before a hard workout or a long run. Here’s what to make sure you consider:

What You Eat
The night before a long run, for instance an 18-miler, eat the same dinner you’ll eat prior to race day—then, eat the same breakfast that morning. Experiment with taking in both water and a sports drink to determine what your system can handle. And by practicing before multiple workouts, you’ll have a good sampling of how your routine might need to be adjusted depending on weather.

Where’s Your Gear?
Choose your outfit the night prior, and lay out your race number and timing chip. Many athletes even pin their number to their singlet and put their chip on their shoe the evening before to make sure they’re not forgotten in the rush. Be sure to take potential race-day outfits out for test runs during training so you know you’ve chosen an ensemble that won’t cause unexpected chaffing or discomfort.

Your Best Warm Up
In addition to prepping your mind, you must also include a warm-up for your body in that pre-race routine. Jog a similar distance before your workouts and races and do the same stretches. Find out what works in training and apply it to competition. As most runners know, race day is not the time to experiment with stretching. With a practiced routine, you can switch to autopilot before the gun fires, allowing you to put all your energy towards running fast and staying strong.

How to Get In the Zone
It can feel awkward to mimic race-day focus prior to training workouts, but it will help you get a more intense game face on when the big day arrives. So, before you head out for training, take a few minutes to think about your run. If music plays an important role in getting in the zone for you—as it does for many runners—experiment with your playlists. The right one can help you get pumped to tackle the road and songs can serve as cues to get you in the zone.