I was too lazy to run yesterday – although I did go for a walk – and while I was tempted to make up my run today, I knew it would be better if I held off.
Why? Well, I’m running two back-to-back sprint triathlons this weekend, and I need fresh legs!
Fresh legs are a great feeling. After a few days off, it’s amazing how much faster I run. My lower body doesn’t feel heavy or slow to respond. In short – I feel like I can do ANYTHING when I have fresh legs, which is why I’d love to go into the weekend feeling great. How I’ll feel on Sunday is another issue, of course.
Here’s how I get fresh legs, fast:
Rest: First things first – REST! Most training plans include some sort of taper period in which you drastically reduce mileage and intensity to allow your body to heal more deeply. But the rest days immediately preceding a race are important, too. While some people feel better – mentally and physically – if they do a very short run the day before a race, I feel best if I sit on my butt all day long and engage in minimal activity. So rest. Really and truly rest. Don’t go on a long walk the day before your race; don’t spend the entire evening before the event dancing in high heels at a nightclub. REST!
Massage: Pre-race massage is a tricky thing. You don’t want to go too deep or too hard right before the race, as you’ll feel sore and dragged down, not fresh. However, a light, gentle massage can help flush out your muscles and increase blood flow to your legs. If you’re going to get a pre-race massage, do it four or five days before and keep it light and gentle.
Foam Rolling: Foam rollers are basically super cheap and easy self-massagers. I have this foam roller and love it. Foam rolling can help sort out any knots and increase blood flow, but just like a regular massage – don’t go too deep and heavy. Here’s more tips on how to use a foam roller.
Sleep: It’s hard to sleep the night before a race, but if it makes you feel better, runner’s lore says the few days before the race – not the night before – are the most important. So get in bed early and sleep late for an entire week! Sleep helps your body recover, after all.
Ice Baths: Ice baths are painful, but evidence suggests they help constrict blood vessels, flush lactic acid, and reduce swelling. Ice baths or icing in general is most effective immediately following the workout, so I try to ice my legs after my last workout before the race. Or you could take a cue from Megan and just fill your bathtub with ice cubes…
Proper Fueling: Underfueling (or poor fueling) can led to injuries and puts a ton of stress of your body, which is the last thing you need right before a race. Stay focused on eating wholesome, natural foods, including lots of fruits and veggies. Don’t throw out your dietary goals just because you’re in rest mode. Here’s how I fuel for the long haul.
Hydrate: Drink water! Hydration for the race occurs in the week preceding the event, not just the day of the race. I am to drink at least half my body weight in ounces each day.
Compression Socks: And last, but not least, compression socks. Sure, they look seriously dorky but they really do help reduce swelling in your lower legs. I have a pair of Recovery Socks and would highly recommend them – they last FOREVER.
How do you get fresh legs? How do you maximize your taper? Everyone always talks about how they ‘hate’ the taper but man – I LOVE IT. Lots of couch time.