With finals footy under way and the Melbourne Marathon just around the corner, it’s crucial to ensure that you are optimising your performance and preventing any niggles/aches from progressing into injuries.
Good habits can be made in 21 days but, at this stage, it is important not to drastically change your routine in this small time bracket.
Leading up to an event, many of us will question:
- “Am I race ready?”
- “Should I be doing this before a run?”
- “Can I be eating this?”
- “Is it okay to push through this niggle?”
- “How much do I eat/drink?”, “How often?”
- “What is the best routine?”
As a VFLW football player and marathon runner, here’s what I recommend focussing on to optimise your performance on race day:
Have you experimented during your training runs with what brand gels and energy bars you are going to use for race day?
This is very important as different ingredients can have different effects on your gut.
It is also important to figure out a rough plan of how frequently you will be taking the gels. For example, every 8 km for marathon distance, this can not only keep you fuelled and prevent hitting the wall but also provide some motivation
Figuring out what you can eat in the morning before runs and the night before.
Some recommendations for gels include in below image:
Two litres or approximately 8 glasses of water a day is the recommended rule of thumb.
I encourage extra hydration measures to replace the chemicals that are lost from the body during physical activity. For example:
Nuun electrolyte tablets – no sugar, therefore avoids the peak and crash. These dissolvable tablets can be diluted in water before, during or after events to replenish the 4 main electrolytes (potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium) stores.
There are many recovery options that have shown to be effective in preventing muscle soreness and also in facilitating the flushing out metabolic by-products which accumulate during runs.
For optimal recovery, one or more of these strategies listed below should be completed straight after the run until 48hrs after.
- Active recovery: I recommend completing an off-legs active recovery such as a light bike ride or a swim following a long run.
- Ice bath: 8-10 mins ice bath.
- Hot/Cold bath: 1 min hot, 1 min cold x 6.
- Compression garments: Wearing compression socks and tights decrease post-exercise swelling, encourage blood flow and are effective in the removal of waste products.
- Magnesium salt baths: These can be purchased from the chemist or at our clinic and assist with relieving muscle cramps and soreness.
Aches & Niggles:
Tuning into your body and taking breaks and rest days when required is vital.
By increasing your training by 10% each week is a great rule of thumb to prevent repetitive strain injuries.
Soft Tissue Treatments: Weekly or Fortnightly
Frequent soft tissue therapy is fundamental to release any tightness and to treat any niggles. This can prevent anything eventuating into an injury
Mobility & Stretching:
Using a roller to roll out the lower back, hips and legs.
Massage balls are also great tools for trigger pointing taut muscle bands and the muscles under the feet.
Mobility and stretching should be done at LEAST 4 times a week if not before/after every run
Strength – Maintenance:
Don’t think that just because your event is coming up, that you should cut strength out of your training routine.
Continuing strength work is vital to prevent you from breaking down and to ensure the muscles have the capacity to withhold the intensity and load of your long runs. As the event is coming up, low-moderate weight and high reps is encouraged.
Target muscle groups should be any areas you have had previous injuries/niggles in and also the glutes, core, quads, calves, hamstrings and the feet.
Ensure your runners are up to date. Remember, a typical runner last 600-800 kms before the cushioning and support compresses.
if you are purchasing new ones one month prior to the event, stick with the same model or allow longer to break in and adapt to the shoe, if they are a different model. We recommend a professional fitting with our friends at Active Feet.
Stick to Your Normal Routine:
Whether it is having a glass of wine the night before you do your long runs or setting out your running gear before you go to sleep, it is very comforting to stick to a routine that you have been following throughout your training schedule.
Nerves are a normal part of competing and following a routine can help channel this nervous energy into results!
These days are as important, if not more important than actual training days! You must have at least 1-2 rest days a week that involve no weight-bearing or running to allow for the muscles to recover and rebuild.
Relaxation or Meditation:
It’s easy to be quick to dismiss meditation, but there is a lot of evidence in regards to the effectiveness of a couple of minutes of meditation.
I strongly recommend listening to the podcast on ABC Radio- “Mindfully” which talks about the importance of reducing tension and boosting your performance. It is also very helpful in channelling stresses in everyday life and work situations.