The New York Marathon is upon us! I have trained, slept, eaten, and mentally prepped myself for that long jog I have ahead of me, and I am beyond excited to be running Sunday with Team USA Endurance, the official ING NYC Marathon team for the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Although all my training is in the bag, what I have (and haven't) been doing this week may be the most crucial thing to prepping for the big day. Tapering can be tricky, as wonderful as it is, so I asked Michelle Portalatin, an ITCA-certified triathlon training coach, to advise the best way to spend these days to maximize my race performance.
1. Run the same number of days you did during training, just decrease the distance. According to Portalatin, your total volume should be 30 percent of the average you did during a normal week of training. So if you were averaging 40 miles, the week before the marathon you should run 12 miles split among three runs such as 5, 4, and 3 miles.
2. It's okay to do a short run the day before the marathon. You don't have to completely cut off all activity in the couple days prior to the race. You can still run on the eve of your event, but keep it to 2 to 3 miles, Portalatin says. Most importantly, listen to your body. If you feel tired, rest. If you feel anxious, a short run good may make you feel better.
3. Skip strength training. Your main focus during tapering is resting your muscles, allowing them to fully recover from all the training you have done and maximizing fuel and enzyme stores. Strength training does not allow for this. A better option is yoga, but be careful about the type. Don't do anything too strenuous too close to the big day, and of course don't try anything new that might cause injury.
4. Eat light, healthy, wholesome foods. You already should be avoiding sugary and fatty foods with empty calories. Now just consume fewer calories because you are running less, Portalatin says. By Thursday (if your race is on Sunday) be sure 60 percent of your meals are complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, potatoes, and rice.
5. Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day. A good test to check your hydration is your urine color: Aim for a light yellow hue. But be sure not to over-drink. If your urine is clear, it can mean you are over-hydrated and can cause an imbalance in your electrolytes, Portalatin says.
6. Minimize alcohol. "One glass of wine or a beer during the week before will not ruin your race," Portalatin says. "But everyone reacts differently to alcohol, so use your best judgement." If you don't want to jinx anything, it's best to avoid drinking the week or at least the night before, and celebrate after you have crossed the finish line, she adds.
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7. Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep a night. Anything extra is icing on the cake! Your body rests, recovers, and rebuilds the most when it is sleeping. Get to bed early all week and especially Friday night because the excitement over the marathon day will keep many people up Saturday night, Portalatin says.