No matter how many weeks or months you put into training for a race, you can probably expect some pre-run jitters on the big day. And while your emotions may be hard to manage, there are definitely a few things within your control on race day.
To perform your best and get the most of your weeks of training, avoid these five race day mistakes.
1. Breaking Out New Gear
If you want to set yourself up for success, keep your training gear as consistent as possible, Meg Takacs, trainer at Performix House and creator of the #RunWithMeg app, tells LIVESTRONG.com. In other words, don't wear a new pair of shoes on the big day.
This is something you'll want to keep in mind as you train, too. It's best that you test out new clothes and accessories in the weeks leading up to your race, not on the morning of, Takacs says. After all, the last thing you want is some unexpected chafing or blisters as you near the finish line.
Don't forget the smaller details, too. If you're running with your phone, test your phone sleeve or pouch in advance. Or if you're running with just a fitness tracking watch, make sure you have all the tech down the night before — and don't forget to download your favorite workout playlist!
2. Focusing on What Other People Are Doing
Even if you're running a virtual race, there may be other runners in your path. If that's the case, try your best to avoid comparing yourself to others, Takacs says. Especially since they may or may not also be racing.
"Don't compare yourself to other people and try not to get too into your head," Takacs says. "Positive self talk and repeating motivational sentences to yourself is always helpful. Endurance running is all about forward momentum, physically and mentally."
Also, avoid adopting other runners' warm-up routines or pre-race hydration and nutrition strategies. They may look like they know what they're doing (and that may be the case), but it's best to stick to what you know works for your body (more on that below).
3. Experimenting With New Foods or Drinks
The morning of a race definitely isn't the time to test a new oatmeal recipe — save the breakfast experiments for after your run. Just as with your running gear, you want to keep your breakfast routine exactly the same as your training days, according to Takacs.
This might be something to consider in the weeks before your race, too. Establishing a go-to breakfast recipe and hydration routine on your training days will help your body and mind get into a rhythm. Test a few different breakfasts a few weeks ahead of time to ensure you steer clear of an upset stomach.
Fast-digesting carbs, like bananas or oats, will help give you the pre-workout energy you need and won't feel too heavy as you exercise, according to the American Council on Exercise. And avoid foods that are too high in fiber or fat, as these are tough on the digestive system.
4. Overdoing Your Warm-Up
While walking into a race with no warm-up is definitely a big mistake, you also don't want to overdo it, either. On the morning of your race, you'll probably be feeling a little more antsy and eager than usual but don't channel all that nervous energy into your warm-up.
Keep your pre-race warm-up dynamic and avoid static stretching (ones you hold for a long period of time), Takacs says. Ideally, you'd have established a routine in the previous weeks, but if not, some high knees, walking lunges and skips are good movements to incorporate.
5. Letting Your Nerves Take Over
Don't let pre-race jitters get the best of you, especially in the beginning of your race. It's totally normal to burst out of the gate a little too fast but try your best to avoid making this mistake, Takacs says.
"Don't go out too fast," Takacs says. "Doing this feels exciting, and a lot of people do it, but you don't want to get your heart rate up too quickly, because it's hard to not only maintain that pace the whole race, but it's very hard to recover from."
Instead, try your best to keep a sustainable pace throughout the entire race. Start out slowly and gradually speed up as your body and breathing pattern adjust to the increase, Takacs says. "You want to aim to run each mile faster than the last, so you don't get your heart rate up too quickly," she says.