Here are some of my favorite training tips and running rituals that I always perform, whether training or racing hard.
why running rituals are important
I used to think that training and racing well was all about physical strength. At the beginning of my relationship with running, I thought I would be a better athlete if I was stronger, faster, etc. Many share the initial assumption that physical strength is the most important thing about athletic endeavors. However, I would argue that mental strength is just as important, if not more so! Whenever I am training for a race or even just going out on a run, I have to hype myself up. I have to work hard to get myself in the right mindset to train or race hard. It’s mental strength that will help with consistently training. It’s mental strength that will encourage me to push a little further and run a little faster or longer. And it’s mental strength that always helps me cross the finish line.
This isn’t easy. I have talked myself out of things, given up on myself, and straight up quit when things felt hard. This happens, and that’s okay, because trying is better than not even attempting. But, I also do a couple of things that help me get into the zone. With trial and error, I have figured out a couple of things that let my body know it’s time to push it. Here are some training tips and running rituals that I always perform, whether training or racing hard.
my running rituals
I always braid my hair before big athletic activities. It started because my hair would get into horrible knots by flapping around in the wind or rain, but it continued because it made me feel prepared. There is just something about putting my hair in a braid that signals to my body I’m about to run hard.
Is there one song that gets you pumped? Better yet, a whole bunch of songs that gets you pumped? I have a ton of these songs in a playlist called “charging up” (most of the songs are 2000’s hip-hop/rap songs I played on repeat in high school). From the moment I wake up and while I’m getting ready for a long run or getting dressed for a race, I start up my playlist because it gets me in the zone.
Wear the Same Clothes
For almost every hard training or race, I wear the exact same thing. I have a favorite set of clothes for the varying temperatures that I will wear no matter what. I pack the same shorts, sports bra, socks, hat, top, shoes, and accessories because I know they work. Even though I have cuter options, they might not be the most comfortable or apt for racing. When people ask for clothing recommendations I always say you should wear whatever you won’t notice. So I put something on that isn’t going to bother or distract me during training. I stick to what I know will work.
I am a creature of habit so it’s probably no surprise that the way I fuel for hard trainings and races is similar. So when I say fuel well, what I mean is eat an appropriate amount of nutritious foods. It’s important to adjust how I’m eating based on my activity to make sure I’m fueling my body to give it what it needs!
For example, when I was marathon training, I increased my caloric intake to help fuel all of the miles I was putting in. This is also related to how the kinds of foods I eat. The days leading up a long run or race, I eat foods I know my body can handle (more on that here, if you’re interested). It might mean eating the same meals a few days in a row, but I would rather it be that then have tummy problems during a run. I also have a lucky pre-race meal I eat before EVERY race… it’s a big toasted sandwich with multigrain bread, veggies, turkey/chicken, avocado, and some spicy sauce with a side of sweet potato fries or homemade potato chips.
This is maybe one of the most obvious things, but make sure to hydrate! I always carry around a Hydroflask filled with water, and am extra intentional leading up to a big activity. I drink at least 4 water bottles a day of water. The days leading up to a race I add in some Nuun Hydration tablets or Powerade for extra electrolytes.
Have you ever stood in front of a mirror and said something positive to yourself? Something like “you got this” or “okay, let’s go do this”? I have, and I will continue to do so because I think talking positively to myself helps me get in the right mindset. There’s absolute no benefit to me to tell myself I can’t do it. Of course my mind sometimes goes there and I feel weak and want to give up, BUT, if I can fill my head with positive thoughts before this happens, sometimes my mind won’t even slip there. This is something that I don’t just tell myself once before going out on a run and then expect everything to be fine… I have to CONTINUOUSLY talk positive to myself, even during the training or race.
This looks different for everyone. For me, it involves repeatedly telling myself I can do it. I have to get totally in the zone and take some time to remind myself of what I’ve done and what I can do. I usually take time to do this the night before and morning of a big training or race.
Ask for Encouragement
I usually get pre-race jitters. It doesn’t matter how much I have prepared, when it gets close to race time, I second guess myself. To fight this, I text and call friends and ask them to hype me up. This usually looked like a frantic text message to a training partner telling her I was freaking out, and she would respond telling me I’d be fine and that I could do it. Sometimes just that little bit of extra encouragement and hearing that someone else believes in me can make a big difference in confidence.
Prepare the Night Before
The night before a big workout or race, I take the time to lay out everything I need. This includes choosing clothes, laying out socks and shoes, and maybe even packing a bag. I found that if I already have everything ready to go, there’s less time I have to talk myself out of doing something in the morning when I’m tired. It’s all about setting myself up for success the night before!
Eliminate Distractions (don’t look at your phone, etc.)
When it gets close to starting time, I eliminate distractions. I get my tunes ready (if needed), turn on my watch, and tune out everything else. I try not to look at messages, calls, or the time while I’m training because I will get distracted of the task at hand.
finding new running rituals
Here’s the deal: mental strength is hard. It takes a lot of practice to do feel confident, and sometimes even when I do all of these tips, I still fail. There will always be times when I doubt myself, don’t have confidence, and quit. I get intimidated and nervous, even if I have practiced and am prepared. All of these feelings are normal and real. I know it doesn’t make me weak or any less of an athlete to feel or think these things.
Despite the difficulties, I’m at a place where I have found training tips that work so I can continue to practice them. I continue to talk positive to myself, wear my favorite clothes, ask for encouragement, and put into practice all of these tips I have for myself. Each season of training and racing will bring a new experience where I’ll need to find new strategies. I am continually adjusting my strategies based on my daily routines, training, and races. It’s always a journey!
- Do you have any training tips?
- What do you do to get ready before training or racing?
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