Here we are only a month to go, you're well into your training by now and chomping at the bit to get out on the hill and run that line. With that in mind I thought we could look at some ways to help give you a boost on race day.
You've got your lovely pair of trail running shoes, your gloves, buff, thermal gear and your Garmin and you have probably had to sell your granny to pay for them all. Who ever said running was an inexpensive sport was a liar! Even all the miles you've clocked up over the past number of weeks will not push you to the finish line. Training and gear are all vital but they do not provide the engine with power. Imagine yourself as your dream sports car (I'm a Mustang!), with 500bhp at your fingertips you are not going to put any old oil or fuel within a hundred feet of that car so why would you treat your body any differently? Step back and look at food for what it is, energy and nutrients to feed your engine and not just something to stop the rumble in your belly. Stop and ask yourself “what's in it for me?”. As mentioned above, there is only four weeks to go to Run the Line 2018 so if you haven't done so already, now is the time to clean up your diet and give your body the best fuel possible so it can give you the most energy and best performance possible. If you missed my first blog on this topic you can check it out on the Run the Line page.
There are a few little tricks of the trade when it comes to diet such as beetroot juice or even better the beetroot as a whole food. Beetroot is a nitrate which means it has a dilating effect on blood vessels allowing for more blood flow to working muscles. This provides a quicker delivery of nutrients to these muscles as well as allowing more oxygen to reach the muscles. This does take a while to have an effect so it would be best to include in the diet long term or at least in the weeks coming up to an event. One word of warning however, as the blood vessels dilate blood pressure drops so if anyone already has low blood pressure it would be best to stay away from this technique.
Caffeine can also be used to provide extra oomph for an event. This technique only really works if you have abstained from any caffeine containing products for a few weeks previously however as the body becomes accustomed to the effects of caffeine when taken regularly. If you do try this, a good strong cup of coffee should be enough for the event but there are various gels and supplements that can be used. Caffeine provides extra mental alertness, energy and widens the airways to allow more oxygen into the lungs. Beware that high doses can cause heart palpitations which may not be ideal when your heart rate is already up during a run.
Carb rinsing is a really good technique to employ. It involves rinsing a solution of sugar and water (or a high glucose sports drink) around the mouth for about ten seconds and then spitting it out. It has been shown to greatly improve running and cycling performance and alertness as well as reducing fatigue short term. It is best used for runs of about an hour duration, anything over that and you will need to swish and swallow as you will need the glucose for fuel. The science behind the method is that there are specific receptors in the mouth that the brain recognises when sugar is present. This causes the brain to believe you are ingesting sugar so it sends signals to working muscles to increase performance as the brain believes glucose is on the way to feed the energy output. Spitting out the solution also means you are not ingesting the calories in the sugar so it is good for the waistline and blood sugar balance. One word to the wise though is to ensure good oral hygiene with this technique as we don't want to be adding dental bills to our list of running expenses!
DON'T JUST RUN, TRAIN:
It is all too easy to just focus training on building up the miles and leave it at that but it is important to remember that muscles need to be worked in a number of ways to ensure strength, stamina and to prevent injury. Many runners have problems with their knees, hips, glutes or core so these muscles in particular need to be strengthened beyond just running. Exercises such as reverse lunges, squats, dead lifts, glute bridges and leg lifts when performed in a controlled fashion will all help strengthen these muscles. You don't even have to go to the gym to do this, these are easy to do at home and will be even more effective when performed with resistance bands. Try to set aside ten or fifteen minutes throughout the day for these exercises, you are not too late to start now, it will still benefit you on race day and in the future.
Long story short, the body works more effectively using oxygen to produce energy. This allows for a steady output of power over a prolonged period of time. In simple terms it is the pace you feel you can run at all day if you had to and is called the aerobic system. This system must be strengthened and trained in order to increase overall speed and stamina. The best way to do this is to include intervals in your training regime. They can be hill sprints or can be done on the flat once you are running at near maximum power for the duration of the sprint. The aim is to complete your last sprint as quickly as you did the first. Build up your time and speed, allow the full amount of recommended time for recovery before sprinting again and ensure you include adequate time to warm up and cool down to allow blood flow to muscles and lactic acid to clear. Perhaps start with a ten minute warm up, ten reps of thirty second sprints with thirty second recovery between each sprint and a ten minute cool down then build on this over time. Record your progress via distance traveled, sprint and recovery time and speed. Believe me, intervals sound worse than they actually are and you will soon notice the difference!
Mental strength is just as powerful as physical strength. If you feel prepared , confident and have a positive attitude towards whatever event you are taking part in you have already won! This can really seperate the boys from the men so it is not something to take lightly. Emotions such as fear and anxiety can take over if we feel we are unprepared or have previously had a bad experience in a similar race or situation and have not discharged this negative experience into something to learn from rather than fear. These emotions also create physical tension in muscles causing the body and mind to under perform. Many top athletes employ sports psychologists for this very reason. How do you get into the zone? One tactic is to forget about the outcome and focus on the process that is required for that moment in time instead, literally think one foot in front of the other. This is what you have control over and this is what will influence the outcome. Another tactic that many athletes use is to have a mantra prepared for when you feel things are getting tough. Something short, energetic and positive works best even if it is as simple as “I can do this”. I use this tactic myself and it never ceases to amaze me how much more power I can give just by repeating positive words rather than focusing on how tired I feel. If you let negative thoughts take hold you are creating self doubt and are basically self sabotaging your race. Finally, being prepared for the event by having your gear packed the night before so you're not rushing the morning of can provide hormonal support as you are not rushing around increasing stress hormones throughout the body. So, think happy thoughts and enjoy the journey! See you on race day.