Race season is upon us. Make the most of yours with our road-tested rights and wrongs so you'll know exactly what to do (and, ahem, what you can get away with) before your next fit event.
By Marissa Stephenson, SELF
DON'T be afraid to booze a bit before
We're not talking blackout bender, but a Friday afternoon bloody or a Saturday night beer will not make or break your PR. (Trust us. We did both before last week's Seaside School Half-Marathon -- and PR'd!) If you've trained hard and stuck to a reasonable diet for weeks, maybe even months, your body won't fall apart over a few ounces of alcohol. And it may be just the thing your mind needs to shake the nerves and allow you to relax.
DO have a shake out -- and it doesn't have to be a run
The day before, you want a micro workout that loosens and primes your muscles to kill it the next morning. That can be a quickie run, but feel free to cross-train -- a dozen laps in the pool, a yoga session, a 30-minute ride on a fat-tire bike. All good options.
DON'T just carbo-load on bread
Yes, the two days prior to your race you should be amping carbs so that they account for about 60 to 70 percent of what you eat; this will help store much-needed fuel in your muscles, say SELF contributing experts and New York City dieticians Willow Jarosh and Stephanie Clarke. But you still need protein and healthy fats, so this isn't carte blanche to go on the pancake diet. (Though that sounds like an amazing diet.) This platter, pictured, represents a family-sized version of what your plate should look like at each meal: Half of it brightly colored produce, a quarter lean protein, and a quarter whole grains or starchy veggies. One hundred percent delicious.
DO plan for more than the race... with one caveat
Whether you're in for a destination tri or the local 10K, it's easy to have tunnel-vision when planning your weekend. But if you don't plot fun things for the day before you bib-up, you'll just obsess about your pace and whether you're ready. Preoccupy yourself. Spend time at the Expo (often they'll have cool demos, talks and giveaways), cruise a new town, chill with friends. Just, you know, don't make the itinerary four hours of museum walking or standing at a concert. Stack that kind of time on your feet for the end of the weekend itinerary.
DON'T change your morning ritual
That breakfast you had before last week's long run, and the week before that, and the week before that? That's what you're having race morning. No substitutions. You've tested it (ahh, right?) and you know it works for your stomach and gives you enough fuel for the first miles. Our go-to: Delicious Nuttzo spread over a banana for the perfect combo of muscle-fueling carbs and protein, plus a large cup of coffee for get-up, but not too much go.
DO roll out pre-start
Three minutes is enough to wake up and loosen muscles, and relax any kinks. [NOTE: This hard, knobby foam roller was dangerously close to a "don't"; stick with softer and/or smooth rollers if your muscles are tight.]
Don't forget about your finish line pic
You will have one -- and it's up to you to make it more memorable than sucking wind and looking spent. Throw your hands in the air, pump your fist, or follow associate fitness editor Jaclyn Emerick's lead and grab a roadie from the crowd to guzzle. At the bare minimum, look up and smile! You did it, girl.
DO hit up the free massage table afterward
Even if there's a line of runners queuing up, don't sweat it; this is worth the wait. Research shows that just 10 minutes of massage post-workout can help you feel less sore the next day. More important, it'll feel amazing that instant.
DON'T say no to any treat post race
You know how they say calories don't count on your birthday? Well, HBD, because the same goes for the hours after the finish line. You killed it on the course, we know, so feel good eating or drinking whatever you please afterward -- it's just this one day. We doubled -- fine, tripled -- down on roasted banana, coconut and chocolate-chunk cakes. Total truth: Though they're ridiculously tasty, they're also kinda healthy.
DO take a rest day
Just like drinks and treats, you earned a break. Take a day, two, three even -- but then immediately create and write down your next goal. Could be a race. Or maybe it's deadlifting your body weight, holding Crow's pose, or trying every group class on your gym's schedule. Just as long as your goal's lined up, so you don't let up.
Photo credits: Marissa Stephenson