Imagine spending countless hours of intensive training only to get sick on race day. Gutted! You’ve strictly followed a training plan without skipping a single session. You’ve fought against extreme weather conditions, only to wake up with a severe headache, paralysing nausea or stomach upset hours before the event.
Sickness is common both before and even during the main event; so don’t worry you’re not alone! These are most mentioned reasons you might get sick on the build up to race day, and actionable steps you can take to combat it.
Reasons for pre-event sickness.
In the world of fitness, overtraining is a common phenomenon (more common than your gym fee direct debit). The countdown begins, and one week to the race day. A mistake most people make is to schedule a rigid daily exercise routine, thinking that you will achieve your goals faster.
Having lots of expectations, you push yourself over the limit risking the inflammation of tendons or even straining muscles. Overtraining is detrimental to your training; it dehydrates your body. You lose weight, and by the end, toes at the start line, yet you find yourself weak and lack the motivation to get going.
Getting stressed before your race day only means one thing; you’re putting all your energy worrying about your performance, there’s none left to actually perform like you planned.
Lack of proper nutrition
You are what you eat! Eat plenty of nutritious food and you’ll have an abundance of energy. Poor nutrition will result in poor energy levels. Your asking your body to perform without sufficient fuel. An example consequence here is chronic fatigue which not only impacts your muscles but also your energy levels impacting your daily life.
Winning is a strong driver for runners, wouldn’t you agree? Our high expectations unconsciously instils pressure to win at all costs. Obsessions about performance and comparing your results to others leads to anxiety, overthinking leading to a negative mindset. Being stuck in comparison mode and expecting too much from yourself reduces your confidence to face reality.
What are some of the common sicknesses?
Some common sickness you may get before race day includes;
- Headache and high temperature
- Stomach upset
How should you get rid of sickness?
Running while sick is dangerous and might even result in a more severe illness. There are five ways you can get rid of sickness before your race day.
Food and nutrition
Your diet matters a lot. Most runners focus solely on their practice plan, forgetting that nutrition is essential to your training.
A runner burns hundreds of calories during any kind of workout, whether that is continuous, interval or resistance training. If you don’t practise sufficient nutrition to replenish what energy your fitness session burnt off, you will feel weak, dizzy, or even faint. Don’t want you to faint at the start line now do we?
You wouldn’t make a long trip without putting enough fuel in your car, so don’t ask your body to go the distance without a carbohydrate loading period a week building up to race day.
The Recommended daily allowance (RDA) of saturated fat is 30g for males, 20 for females – from cakes, biscuits, bacon and cheese. Less is better in that category, even try to replace them with unsaturated fatty foods such as nuts, avocados and seeds.
You see, excessive saturated fat intake increases your cholesterol levels. Cholesterol collects in your blood vessel walls and this plaque build-up narrows blood vessels over time. Less blood can get through per heart beat, forcing your heart pump harder and harder to get the blood and oxygen your working muscles need. Ongoing plaque build-up increases the chances of getting heart health problems.
Avoid taking supplements or any drugs since they may irritate your stomach, seek help from your doctor or qualified nutritionist.
Alcohol and hydration
I know, but you can always have that glory drink after your race. However throughout training its important to optimise your performance. it’s scientifically proven that training gains are made through the rest and recovery periods. Alcohol is a potent diuretic that causes dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, slowing down the all important recovery. A dehydrated runner faces a greater risk for muscle strains and cramps, so try to develop a no or low-alcohol training and nutrition plan that has sufficient recovery and sleep without the pub crawl, at least til after race day.
Drink plenty of water to make sure your body remains hydrated and make you stay healthy, helping your body recover before the race day. The best indicator of hydration is your urine, you’re looking for clear urine for optimal hydration.
Preparation is key
This is so important! Always prepare for your race in plenty of time. You will not get fit a week before your race, you will just risk injury. So ensure you adhere to a gradual training plan to ease you into high training volume, especially if it is your first time hitting a new distance. The rule is 10% increase in miles per week. No more.
Relax and don’t get anxious
Anxiety is common to runners. However, its interpretation is within your control.
the build-up before your race, take a few moments to think about your event. how do you want it to go? Can you see yourself happy energised and performing well? Is anything negative showing up? if so, how can you prepare for those situations beforehand?
The take home message here is always trust your training. You have no doubt worked hard, prepared well and kept the alcohol at bay. Remember it’s just another run, you’ve done so many to get to the start line, so go and enjoy your race day.
Prepare yourself for the race day. Try to replicate everything during your practice routine before lacing up at the start line. Eat what you will eat during the race day. Note how your body will react to the food.
Also for those longer distances practise practise practise with your gels, gummy bears, energy boosting drinks whatever it is you choose; make sure you are happy with them before race day (plus a great excuse to eat some Haribo isn’t it).
More often overlooked is your race kit. Complete a number of practise runs in your race kit. Why? because you don’t want to be running a marathon in new trainers rubbing at mile 3 out of 26! The same goes for bras, socks, shorts, tops, hydration belts, earphones, everything! Make sure you’re comfortable.
final trick of the trade
Make it a habit to check-in with your body throughout your training. Some find it useful to journal or keep a food/exercise diary to see if any patterns emerge with certain foods, training sessions for example. its also a helpful tool for monitoring yourself closely for any signs of illness caused by overtraining and adjust accordingly, either with your running coach, an experienced friend, for medical professional.