Getting sick in the days and weeks before a big race might seem cruel and unusual. Fortunately for runners, the latter is more often the case. Despite anecdotal claims and worst-case scenarios, you’re not actually more likely to get sick the week of the race.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be diligent in defending yourself against illness. Likewise, you don’t want to take any risks with your running that could end up in an untimely injury.
Here are a few simple and seemingly common-sense tips to make it to race day healthy and injury-free:
- Drink a lot of water. Staying well hydrated will keep your immune system in tip top shape and also help keep your training on track. Even if the weather is cool and sweating isn’t a major issue, it’s important to remind yourself to drink water throughout the day. Aim for around 10 glasses.
- Eat well. You’ve fueled your training with a well-balanced and high-quality diet. Now isn’t the time to change that. Diet is a key contributor to good overall health and will again help you resist illness and feel your best. You should, of course, consider carbo-loading in the days before a longer race such as a half or marathon.
- Set and stick to a schedule. Running lends itself well to establishing a routine and this will pay off right up until race day. Don’t use the extra time not training to squeeze in extra activities, meetings or events. Take the time to rest, relax and focus on your upcoming race.
- Aim to run less overall volume. Gradually reducing your training mileage in the final weeks before a race–while still maintaining some intensity– is a process known as the taper. Despite the decreased training, try to run your usual routes, at similar times and also keep your pre- and post-run routines the same.
- Don’t overextend yourself. The few longer and harder workouts you do should all be well within your capabilities. You shouldn’t be doing anything new, particularly hard or that will negatively affect your confidence. Do workouts you enjoy and try to have some fun knowing the majority of your training is now behind you.
- Sleep as much as you can. Now that you’re running a bit less and the focus is on recovery, do yourself a favour and try to get a bit more rest and ‘bank’ a few extra hours of sleep each week. Knowing you probably won’t sleep well the night before the race, getting as much quality sleep throughout the week is sound and effective advice.
- Stay away from large crowds. It may seem paranoid, but given that it’s cold and flu season, staying away from large crowds or limiting your exposure to them can only help your chances of avoiding getting sick. Wash your hands frequently and sanitize for extra defense.