Over the past four years of traveling and competing internationally, I have met many different athletes and seen a variety of approaches to competition. I’m always interested to see how different individuals like to train on the day before a race. Some people take it very easy, some seem to go for moderate length runs, some run twice, and others do workouts with race-specific paces. Some athletes even like to go into the weight room and do some explosive exercises.
My system has evolved over the years, and I have developed a routine that makes me feel primed and ready to go on race day but remains flexible enough to take into different meet contexts around the world. I don’t like to train too much the day before a race, but I do seem to feel better if I include some fast running.
My typical pre-meet workout begins with a dynamic warm-up, just like every practice session. Next, I go on an out-and-back run that includes a short fartlek. I run 20 minutes out, turn, and then do a 3-2-1 fartlek on the way back, taking full recovery between each interval. I never look at the pace I’m running for this, but prefer to run based entirely off effort. I run the three minute portion at tempo effort, the two minute effort faster than that, and the one minute portion at race pace effort (or slightly slower if I’m racing a 1500!).
After the fartlek is over I resume a normal run pace back to the track (or wherever the starting point of the run was). Once there I do a series of drills that increase in explosiveness. Finally, I put on my spikes (or flats if I’m preparing for a road race) and do four 100m strides at race effort or faster. Then I go into my normal cool down routine, which involves some more dynamic movements to shut down the body, and foam rolling.
In certain situations on the track circuit, pre-meet routines have to be confined to a track facility. and in that case I modify my routine to be fit the circumstance. Instead of doing the 3-2-1 fartlek I might run an 800 at tempo effort, a 400 between tempo and race effort, and then a 200 at race effort. Afterwards I put on my spikes and run 4x100m.
I like these routines because they wake my body up when I’ve been resting for a race and remind me what it feels like to run fast without going overboard. In addition, having a routine that I’ve stuck to for a few years and I associate with racing helps me to feel centered and focused on the task at hand. While I think it’s important to have a system, allowing for some flexibility also helps me to go with the flow depending on the situation.