On race day, you want to be prepared for peak performance. All the time, energy, and effort you’ve put into training is about to pay off in a big way. You’re ready to climb to the top of the pack and bust open those PRs!
So how do you make sure you’re actually ready when race day comes? What are some of the practices that will keep you on the road and keep you performing at your best?
Let’s focus in on 3 topics – 80/20 Training, Recovery, Mindset
When we combine years of research with what wins time and time again in the field, we find the most effective way to train is in a polarized fashion - more time on the low & high-intensity ends and less in the middle (where most runners tend to train).
Specifically, spending about 80% of the time in low-intensity training (Zones 1-2), and about 20% of the time in high intensity (Zones 4-5), with some moderate intensity training (Zone 3) mixed in as well.
This creates an ideal stimulus for our bodies to adapt to the specific demands of running and keep us constantly improving.
And while the exact nature of our training will change from Base through Peak and on to Taper, we want to keep that ratio roughly the same.
Now, lets’ take a look at those phases!
Here, we’re all about that base! (Cue the Meghan Trainor)
Building a solid aerobic base is incredibly important. You need a strong foundation to build speed, power, and performance on top of.
Lots of low-intensity training (the 80 of 80/20), drives some important adaptations that improve our overall fitness and allow us to absorb a greater overall load.
Let’s touch on a couple of those:
Increased capillary density – your body builds more blood vessel highways to traffic oxygenated blood faster and more efficiently to the working muscles that need it!
Increased mitochondrial density – you remember now…mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell! The more mitochondria we have in action, the better we are at utilizing fat as a fuel source to keep us going, and going, and going, and going…
This means a lot of time on your feet, building the physical and mental toughness you’ll need to carry you through the rest of training and on into race day.
This is where we really dial things in in terms of speed, power, and absolute performance. It involves more race-specific training
Here, the 20 of our 80/20 involves a lot more time in the highest of high-intensity (top end of zone 4 and into zone 5).
We start doing less in terms of things like fast-finish or tempo runs, and get in a lot more specific speedwork. We really want to push the envelope and start trying to build top-end speed.
Remember though - you still want to stick to the 80/20 protocol. This is where a lot of people beat themselves up too much and get behind in their training. They feel like they can overtrain, and that often ends up setting them back. In peak, again, while there’s going to be a lot more high, high-intensity work, it’s still staying within that 20% to make sure you’re getting adequate recovery.
You don’t want to be so depleted that it’s going to take your entire taper to recover. You really don’t want to be depleted all the time – that’s a common misconception; if you’re always beat up and always depleted, your speed workouts that you’re trying to do are not going to be quite as effective.
If you still stick to that 80/20, then each one of your speed workouts can be a really quality speed workout.
Make sure you get balance in your life as well as your training so you really can have quality workouts. Going to bed earlier, making sure nutrition is on point (maybe more so than in your base phase) – really dialing in those things for a period of time, so you can be all charged up and ready to go for race day.
One more thing – again, you want to be specific for the peak phase. Keep in mind what type of race you’re training for. Are there lots of hills or downhills? What kind of terrain are you running on? Are you at elevation?
Make sure that you’re getting the right kind of training in so you’re prepared for your specific race.
Here's where we want to start winding down our training and get ourselves prepared and fresh for race day!
How long and quickly you taper that training will depend a lot on your previous training experience and learning how your body best responds. Some athletes choose days for this period while others go more on the scale of weeks. This is where having an individualized and adjustable program can be really helpful.
This is not the period to try throwing in something new to try to get that little bit of extra speed. None of that will make you faster, and might, in fact, make you slower. Stay active, but allow time for increased recovery, knowing you've already prepared well for race day.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about one of the most important parts of training, and that’s RECOVERY!
Our bodies are amazing and can adapt to perform some truly amazing feats - but they need time to build, heal, and adapt. Here at Body Smart, we always tell our athletes:
You don’t get stronger and faster working out. You get stronger and faster RECOVERING from working out.
Our bodies need sufficient time to absorb the load of our training and respond in a healthy and meaningful way. If we’re always going, going, going, and we never give ourselves a chance to rest, then ultimately our bodies don’t have a sufficient chance to adapt and we run a greater risk for injury.
It can be easy to look at elite athletes and see their training profiles and try to match it because, “that’s what the pros do.” It’s the wrong focus - the question we should be asking ourselves is ‘’What did they do to get where they are at today?”
When we ask that question, we find that the way they got where they are is (partially due to genetics - DANG they lucked out!) is that they exposed their bodies to progressive overload, taking time for adequate rest and recovery, for years or even decades, and their bodies responded in kind.
Another thing we find is that they take an active approach to recovery. This means they keep moving even on their rest days. And often, they introduce things like cross-training into their cycles to take a rest from sport-specific movements while still moving their bodies
So if the best can take time for recovery, so can you - and hey, maybe one day you’ll be the best too!
Now, everyone has their favorite ways to recover, but there are two elements of recovery that are vital, and if not taken care of adequately, will come back to bite us in the butts further down the road - NUTRITION & SLEEP
Adopting a diet that gives us all the nutrients (macro and micro) that we need is essential. When it comes to specific diets, we tend to remain agnostic, but with a caveat - whatever diet you choose, focus on adding in whole, unprocessed foods, and keep your plate colorful (that means plenty of fruits, vegetables, and your more colorful starches - I’m looking at you Skittles guy!)
Quality sleep is important for optimal recovery and vital for performance. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule and trying to get 7-9 hours (on average) helps to ensure our bodies have time to heal, regenerate, and process everything they need to stay healthy.
Okay, now that we’ve gotten the big things taken care of, here’s a few of the things we and our athletes have found relaxing or helpful:
There’s many other options to choose from, so try some of them out, pick your favorites, and continue to live that fit and healthy lifestyle!
So, you’ve gotten your training dialed in and you’re doing an amazing job at being consistent. You’re eating the healthiest you have in years, and you’re feeling great!
But where’s your mind at?
Have you taken the time to make sure you’ve got your mental space cleared out and your mindset right?
We’ve talked to so many people who have prepared themselves physically for the demands of their sport, but have found themselves unprepared to manage the mental game on race day, or find the other stressors in their lives spilling over into training.
So how do we set ourselves up for success in this area as well as prepare ourselves for setbacks and side steps?
Having a mindfulness routine can be key in helping manage some of those stressors. And that looks different for different people. For some, it’s a daily meditation practice (apps like Calm or Headspace can be nice intros to this); for others, it’s a mantra they can repeat.
The bottom line is this - Establish a centering practice or routine you can turn to when things don’t go the way you planned or expected.
We each respond to the different stressors in our lives in a variety of ways - some of them healthy, others not so much. While we can’t escape stress or hardship or control the outcome of everything that happens in our lives, we do get to choose whether we’re proactive or reactive.
Having a proactive plan in place (like a mindfulness practice) for when things go differently than we expected can help us avoid the negative self-talk that often trips us up and instead turn our focus towards creative problem-solving (less ‘Why Me?’ and more “How do accomplish this?)
For some more ideas on ways to get your mindset dialed in, check out our recent Instagram post here.
Hopefully you’ve gotten so good ideas that will help you hit the ground running ;)
Now get out there and crush those goals!!