Should I Exercise the Day Before Running a Race?

Man running in New York
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It's the day before your half-marathon and you are looking forward to the race. But it can be confusing as to whether you should go for a run or simply take it easy and rest. There are lots of opinions about whether or not you should run the day before a race, regardless of whether you're running a shorter race like a 5K or a long-distance event such as a marathon.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Exercising the Day Before a Race

On the one hand, it's good to rest your running muscles in preparation for a race, especially if it's a long one, such as a half-marathon or marathon. Most runners who rest the day before a race say that they feel fresh and ready when they get to the starting line.

But other runners will swear by running very easy for 20 minutes the day before a race, saying that it helps them loosen up and shake off the nervous feelings. Some runners will do some light stretching or foam rolling after their short jog to help them stretch out and relax.

You really need to see what works best for you. If you're the type of person who gets race anxiety, it might be beneficial for you to do a very slow, 20-minute jog the day before. But if you think you perform better on rest and you don't need a short shake-out run, then just relax during those 24 hours leading up to the race. Whichever you choose, it's not going to have an impact on your race performance.

Avoid a Hard Workout

Whatever you do, just make sure that you don't do a significant, hard workout, like a long run, speed workout, or strength training the day before the race. Some people might assume that running several miles on the race course or doing a strengthening workout the day before will give them a mental or physical edge on race day. But, in reality, you'll just be left feeling tired or sore, and questioning whether you're ready for the race.

Running the Course Should Be Done Days Earlier

Running the hills on the course just to "test them out" and be mentally prepared for them could actually backfire as a strategy. If you think that could be of benefit, it is best done a few days earlier rather than the day before. If the course is local to you, make it part of your training runs.

The course is likely to be very different during the race when it is closed to traffic and there are crowds of runners. If you've traveled to the race and the course is unfamiliar, you'll have to decide whether it will be psychologically beneficial or not to take a course tour. It could feed your anxiety or you may be the sort of person who deals better with the known rather than the unknown. It may be better to study a map of the course, especially spotting where the on-course support will be for hydration and toilets.

Try to take it easy and keep reminding yourself that you're well-trained and ready for your race.

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