Finding the Perfect Pre-Race Routine and Why it Matters

4. Figure out what the best warm up is for you

One thing that I could never understand is standardized warm up routines across teams. Every runner is so different in how they respond to warm up activities that it’s very difficult to just use a blanket warm up protocol, like jog 3 miles and do 6 strides.

I know with a large team it’s tough to coordinate individual warm up routines, but it’s important that you perform the warm up that’s right for you or your runners. Some runners respond better to longer slower warmups, others to short warm ups that are a bit more up tempo. It really depends on your preference.

Another thing with teams is that the warmups alone can very often turn into a race, with the adrenaline and excitement about the upcoming event on everyone’s mind, warmups can quickly become a tempo run, which is not ideal for anyone.

I suggest breaking runners into groups of 3-4 for warm ups, based on their style and what they like. For track events, it’s easier to do individual warm ups, so this is an opportunity for athletes to do their own thing and find what they like most and what gets them feeling most prepared.

For me, my warm up routine changed as I aged. In high school I like to take a mile walk, and then 2-3 mile easy jog, with 6 x 75 meter strides. In college I boosted my warm up to 4 miles and performed 4 x 150 meter strides. I felt as my muscles developed with age, I required longer warm ups to get me in my optimal state. Each runner is different. Test during workouts, and find what works for you or your athlete.


5. What you do in the final minutes before the race can have a HUGE impact on your race day outcome

It’s the last 30 minutes before your race. Here’s what you need to do.

  • Stay loose by being on your feet and walking or lightly jogging
  • Stop drinking except to wet your mouth
  • Make your final bathroom run
  • Make sure all your race gear is ready to go – bib number, spikes, singlet
  • Get to the starting line 5-10 mins before the gun

I know these may seem like no brainers, but in the final frantic minutes leading up to an important race it’s easy to forget something or overlook a small detail.

Having a checklist will help you remain calm so you don’t have to think to yourself a million times whether or not you did something.

Make sure all your race gear is prepared before going on your warm up so you don’t have to rush when you come back, you can remain calm and collected as you head to the start.

What I mentioned in this article are just some suggested approaches to developing a good pre-race routine. I think the key is definitely to focus on the benefit that each act you perform has on your performance. If you are doing certain things only for superstition, you may be just adding to your pre-race jitters and anxiety because it’s just another thing to think about and worry about if you forget to do it.

Simplify, and optimize for maximum benefit. The rituals you perform will change over the course of your competitive running career, so be open to change, and flexible enough with your routine to adopt new beneficial habits.

Do you do anything weird or bizarre in your pre-race rituals? Post them in the comments below! I love hearing about the ultra strange things people do before races. Trust me I’ve had my fair share over the years.

Until next time, relax and go. -Steve

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