The 3 Day Race Countdown

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Training and nutrition tips for the 3 days leading up the your big race (LEAGUE MEET)

The final 3 days before a race are very important. The final meals and mental preparations and logistical planning you do in this window can have a major impact on your performance — for better or worse.

Here’s a checklist of things to do in the race countdown to ensure that you get the most out of the hard training you’ve done.


Start carbo-loading:

Research shows that one day of very high carbohydrate intake (4.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight) is sufficient to maximize muscle glycogen stores. But you might as well start two days out for good measure. The best time to start carbo-loading is right after your workout, when your muscles are most receptive to glucose.

It takes some work to consume 4.5g of carbs per pound of body weight in a single day so start 2 days before your big race.


  • oatmeal, bagels, yogurt and orange juice for breakfast
  • noodle soup, granola bars for lunch
  • rice dish for dinner


Do a short, fast workout:

Your next-to-last workout before a race should be relatively easy, so you’re not fatigued on race morning, but it should include a dash of speed to prime your nervous system for competition. For example, 100-200meter relaxed sprints.

Stay off your feet:

Avoid spending any unnecessary time on your feet the day before a big meet. (ex: work, party)

Get a good night’s sleep:

Getting adequate sleep is critical to endurance performance at all times, but it is never more important than in the final days before a big race. In a recent British study, runners covered 6% less distance in a 30-minute time trial than they ran after a full night’s rest. Even a few lost hours of rest could keep you from reaching your race goal.

Because of pre-race jitters and early-morning race starts, it can be difficult to get a full eight hours of shuteye the night before a race. So be sure to get a good, long sleep two nights out.

Do a short run:

A short, easy run is better than none at all the day before a big race. It relieves mental and physical tension and keeps the body primed for performance.

Eat food:

Choose familiar foods that have always worked well for your body in the past throughout the last day before you race. Now is not the time to experiment.

Get your gear together:

There’s nothing worse than showing up at a race venue and realizing you forgot something important. To avoid this nightmarish experience, take some time to get all of your gear together now. It’s best to create a race gear checklist that you use for every race.

Visualize your race:

Mental rehearsal, or visualization, is a powerful tool of psychological preparation for a race. It is not a tool you have to save for the night before a race, but there is certainly no better time to use it. After settling into bed, clear your mind and imagine the next morning’s race as vividly as you can.

Obviously, you can’t go through the entire course in real time, so focus on critical parts such as the start, challenging hills and so forth. Imagine moving with impeccable form and feeling strong, but not unrealistically so. Don’t complete your mental rehearsal race miraculously free of fatigue. Instead, see yourself fighting through the fatigue.

Wake up early:

Research on the relationship between circadian rhythms and exercise performance suggests that optimal performance is not possible within a couple hours of waking up in the morning. So set an early alarm to give your body plenty of time to get up to speed.

Eat your pre-race meal:

Nutrition is very important leading up to race morning.

Plan for race morning:

Before you leave home, go through your gear checklist and your actual gear one last time. Be sure not to forget the small essentials such as spikes, jersey.

Warm up thoroughly:

Start your warmup about 45minutes before your race start. Begin with easy jogging, then do some dynamic stretches such as walking lunges and arm circles, and finish with a few 20- to 30-second striders at race pace.
Matt Fitzgerald






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