Whether you’re an endurance athlete like me, running marathons and competing in big races away from home, or just hoping to get out and enjoy a brisk walk or jog on your next vacation, I’ve learned that being prepared before a trip is key to making sure I always run my best race and make fitness a priority wherever I go.
I always put a significant amount of thinking into what I pack, because it’s so easy to forget the essentials. There’s bound to be a ton of things on your mind before a trip, from getting to the airport, then to actual start line, to deciding on a spot to meet your race buddies for celebratory selfies afterwards, and everything in between. Since we may not always make the most logical decisions in the last couple days before a trip, here are 5 tips that always help me:
1.) It’s all about layers.
Just because the forecast says there’s only a 50% chance of rain doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan to splash through a few puddles, and you don’t want to be stuck in a wet shirt, shorts and shoes before the race even begins. Layering is key when it comes to dressing for events that might be chilly or wet, especially if they take place in a climate you’re not used to. Be sure to think about your base layers, mid-layers, and outer layers while you’re planning your race outfit. For spring or fall races, I usually opt for a tank top, running jacket and compression tights. If it’s going to be really cold, then I’ll pack thermal tights, a long-sleeve mid-layer to go under my jacket, socks that cover my ankles, an ear warmer and gloves.
Be sure to also pack a change of clothes to celebrate in post-race, and if it’s going to be cold or wet outside, make these layers warm ones. Anticipating rain? Pack them in a garbage bag to keep them nice and dry, and toss in an extra garbage bag to use as a DIY-poncho if needed!
2.) Add a few recovery tools to your suitcase.
Personally, I’m all about the foam roller and usually pack my travel-sized one for all of my destination races. If you’re tight for space, a Tiger Tail is a bit smaller and is also a great option for self massages (or self myofascial release, as the pros call it). If you really want to nail your recovery, don’t forget to also toss in some compression socks and Epsom salts for a relaxing post-race bath.
3.) Keep your race day essentials in your hand luggage.
If you’ve ever had an airline lose your checked bags, you’ll understand why this is so key! You don’t want to be left scrambling to find a store that sells your preferred brand of running shoes the night before your race, so be proactive and ensure you’ve got your must-haves in your hand luggage. I like to pack my shoes, outfit, heart rate monitor, nutrition, and race morning breakfast in my carry-on bag, and that brings me to my next tip…
4.) Stick with the foods you trust.
You’ve heard it before I’m sure, but a race is NOT the time to be trying anything new when it comes to nutrition. If you’re going to be participating in an endurance event, ideally you’ve tested out a few different fueling options beforehand and have a good sense of what your stomach deals with best.
When it comes to packing, think about everything you’d normally eat before, during and after a training session and pack those items. Can’t pack them? Instead, make it a priority to track them down at a grocery store as soon as you arrive at your destination.
For half marathon races, my nutrition protocol is pretty consistent. My race morning breakfast is always eaten shortly after I wake up, allowing enough time to for digestion to happen. If I’m not at home, I’ll make a point of grocery shopping so that I can buy those breakfast items and keep them in my hotel room. However, regardless of what I eat when I wake up, my protocol for 20 minutes before the race is always the same: a scoop of Vega Sport Sugar-Free Energizer mixed with water gives me a natural caffeine boost and within minutes, I feel ready to race.
Depending on the length of the race and the heat, I’ll carry a bottle of sports drink with electrolytes and a few gels to keep myself fueled throughout. Of course you can use on-course nutrition, but I prefer to carry my own because I’m confident that my stomach has been able to handle it in training.
5.) Create a bedtime routine.
You’re going to be excited, perhaps a bit nervous, and chances are you’re going to spend a good chunk of the day before the race on your feet at the expo. Just like trying new foods, don’t pick this night to stay up super late. Rather, decide on a bedtime that allows you to get a solid amount of sleep. Before you hit the sheets, lay out all your race gear: outfit (with race number pinned on to your shirt), shoes, iPod, heart rate monitor and watch (fully charged of course!), your nutrition, and anything else you plan to take with you. This will save you having to hunt for your essentials when you wake up, and all you’ll need to worry about is getting yourself to the start line.
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