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Training Tips

Welcome to the RUN FOR AUTISM Team!

You’ve set up your fundraising page, you’re registered for the race and now comes the hard, but FUN part – the training! Here at OAR we’ve compiled and laid out tips on training, nutrition, injury prevention, motivation and much more to help you prepare and succeed on race day.

Your new best friend will be your local running store, get to know it! It serves as much more than a store full of shoes; your local running store is the epicenter of running in your town. Learn about upcoming local races, training programs, and local running clubs. Meet new running partners, learn about local trails, score a pair of new shoes, try some different gear and get motivated! Supporting your local running store, in turn, helps support and grow your running community.

Congratulations, you’re on your way to a goal that very few people can accomplish. For many people training for a big race can be a life-transforming event. RUN FOR AUTISM is happy to be a part of your race goals and successes.  Again, welcome to the team and thank you for your commitment to raising money for autism research!

Training Tips

Training Plans
Not Sure Where to Start?

Check out some of these online training programs and ideas. Legendary runner and writer Hal Higdon has easy to follow plans for both the Full Marathon and Half Marathon. Coach Jenny Hadfield has over 30 free training plans. Her running expertise and training plans have been featured in Runner’s World, on, Women’s Running Magazine, Outside Magazine, etc. Figure out which plan or plans work best for you and your training.

Just looking for a group of runners who will keep you accountable? Joining a local running club can be a great way to meet new training buddies to help you throughout your training.


Find a local running club!
Go Shopping!

Running is an awesome sport because all you really need is a great pair of running shoes, comfortable and practical running attire, and, for women, a good sports bra.  That’s it, everything else is just fun, helpful additions.  If you’re new to running, chances are you might be overwhelmed by all the gear in your local running store.  Before you buy out the store, we’ve compiled a list of what we think are the most important necessities to get you started.  Once you start to tackle more miles you’ll be able to decide what you can (and cannot) add to your running gear collection.

One of the best tips we can give is, NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY!  Meaning, train in the attire you plan to wear, the gear you plan to use and eat/drink the same things you plan to on race day.  Test out different brands, styles, fits, flavors, etc.  Find items you like and stick with them throughout your training so come race day everything will be an easy routine.


Running shoes are constantly changing.  With so many different options it’s difficult to decide which brand, material, and type will work best for you.  Ill-fitting or worn-out shoes are one of the leading reasons to many running injuries.  Instead of guessing which shoe is best for you, visit your local running store to be fitted by an expert.  Click here to get an idea of the shoe that will fit you best before visiting the store.


Depending on where you live and the time of year, there are many options for running clothes.  What you wear and what you feel comfortable in will depend on how hot or cold you do or don’t get/stay.  Since your body heats up on a run, a simple rule of thumb would be to dress for about 10-20 degrees warmer than the outside temperature.  Meaning, if it’s 50 degrees outside, dress like it’s 65-70.  Non-cotton moisture-wicking pieces are preferred as they help pull sweat away from your body and dry faster than cotton.  If it’s colder out try to make sure the item closest to your skin is the moisture-wicking piece.

A good sports bra is a must for women.  Ladies, don’t skimp on your sports bra!  If you’re not comfortable while running there is no way you will stick to it.  Let your local running store help you in this department as well.

Socks are probably the most important necessity next to your shoes.  Most running socks these days are moisture-wicking as well.  These days socks don’t shrink, stretch out, bunch up or fall down!  Test out a few different brands to see which material and style works best for you.

Running watch:

A running watch is a fantastic tool to help you know your pace, distance, progress and can link your runs to fitness apps and social networks.  Watches range greatly in price and capabilities.  Visit your local running store where an expert can help you choose which is best for your training needs.

Nutrition and hydration packs:

Hydrating the day before and during longer runs is essential.  Remember it’s always better to have too much water with you than not enough.  Take a trip to your local running store and test out their stock of running water bottles, water belts, and water backpacks.  Everyone has their own preference on how to stay hydrated.  Find one that works for you and use it throughout your training.

Headlamps, blinking lights and reflective gear:

These are all safety must haves if you run in dark early morning or evenings.  Not only will they help you see where you’re going but they will keep cars, bikers, walkers, etc. alert when you are out getting your miles in the dark.

Visors, hats and sunglasses:

On sunny days these are a training necessity!  They will not only keep the sun out of your face but, a visor, hat or sunglasses will also keep your face relaxed.  A relaxed face will keep your neck, arms and shoulders relaxed for a more comfortable run.  Squinting tightens up your face, neck, shoulders, back etc., which can affect you all the way down to your legs.  On rainy days, wearing a visor or hat will help immensely to keep raindrops out of your eyes.


Runner’s fall in love with this stuff!  It looks like a stick of deodorant but it’s amazing at preventing chafing and blistering on longer runs.  Chafing is especially prone to happen when there is a lot of moisture in the air.  Slather on Bodyglide anywhere you have a chafing problem and trust us, you won’t be disappointed!  (Vaseline can be used as well. The only big difference is that Body Glide has an applicator.)

Work on that Form

Having good running form is key to ensure efficient movement, stay injury free and enjoy every moment of your training up until you cross the finish line!  Achieving proper running form takes time and focus.  Luckily there are simple stretches, drills and practices to help you along the way.


Proper Running Form



There are two types of stretching; static, holding a stretch without moving, and dynamic, moving through a range of motion.  Dynamic stretching is a great way to warm up your body before a run and after as a cool down.  Moving while you stretch activates the muscles you’ll use, improves range of motion and enhances muscle performance.  Static stretching is best to be kept for after runs as it targets the muscles to relax and impairs their ability to store energy.

Try these popular dynamic stretches:

  1. Leg Swings: Holding onto something stable, swing one leg to your side and then back across your torso.  Perform 10 or more times on each side.
  2. Hip Circles: Standing with feet hip-width apart, rotate your hips clockwise in a circular motion and then counterclockwise.  Perform 10 times on each side.
  3. Walking Lunges: Step forward with a long stride and drop your back leg towards the ground by bending your knee in a controlled flowing motion.  Focus on keeping the front knee over your ankle.  Perform 10 times on each leg.
  4. Monster Walk: Standing tall, walk forward alternating lifting each leg straight in front of you and back down.  Perform 10 on each side.
  5. Butt Kicks: Walking forward, kick your heels up towards your glutes and back down.  Peform 10 on each side.


Drills are a great way for beginners and more advanced runners to increase athleticism, reinforce proper mechanics, and improve form.  They should be performed a couple times a week after a light warm-up before your run.  Jason Fitzgerald of Strength Running has put together a great, quick video of basic drills that can be done anywhere.  Perform each drill a few times for about 50 meters.  If getting in all 7 drills is time-consuming, feel free to choose just a few that will be most helpful to your training.

Here is a list of the drills from Jason’s video including their benefits:

  1. High Knees: Reinforces midfoot landing, high cadence, and hamstring flexibility
  2. A-Skip: Reinforces midfoot landing, high cadence, and improves coordination
  3. B-Skip: Improves coordination and hamstring flexibility
  4. Butt-kicks (first variation): Increases hip flexor strength and reinforces midfoot landing
  5. Butt-kicks (second variation in the video): Improves quadricep and hip flexor flexibility while reinforcing high cadence
  6. Straight-leg bounds: Activates glutes and improves coordination
  7. Carioca (grapevine): Improves coordination and increases hip flexibility

Foam Rolling:  

Believe it or not, rolling your muscles on a cheap, foam tube can help avoid injuries, rehab muscles, improve circulation and extend your running lifetime!  Using a foam roller to warm-up and cool-down will prepare your body for your workout, help it recover faster and keep problem areas loose. Visit your local running store, sports store or shop on Amazon to purchase your own personal foam roller.


Add this foam rolling video to your fitness routine today!
Long Runs
The Staple of your Training

You will find that most training plans gradually build weekly mileage and long runs.  The slow build-up is key to help you get stronger and go further without becoming injured or burned out.  Training for a race is difficult at times, but it shouldn’t be torture.  There will be days when you sleep through your morning run or the weather doesn’t cooperate for your long run, but don’t hesitate to be flexible and shuffle your runs around.  A missed or shortened run can easily be made up by doubling up mileage on your next run.  Missed miles here and there aren’t going to make or break your race, but trying to cram in mileage might lead to injury.  Just remember not to do long runs back to back.  We’d much rather have you arrive at the starting line slightly undertrained, healthy and strong rather than burned out and on the verge of injury.

The long runs included on your training plan will be the groundwork for your race preparation.  On these runs your main focus should be covering the suggested mileage and forgetting about the clock.  Further distance runs should be done at an easy, conversational pace; stay in your comfort zone speed-wise and take walking breaks if need be.  Long runs build your endurance physically and mentally, but also help you get accustomed to being on your feet for three, four or five hours at a time to prepare for race day.  Successfully building up long runs will help you through the difficult stages in the race and get you across the finish line!

A few suggestions on ways to power through your long runs:

  1. Rehearse your race day routine: Hydrate and eat well the day before.  Plan a safe, scenic route with water stops and bathrooms along with way.  Test out the running gear and fuel you plan to use on race day.
  2. Connect with others: Find a group or training partner for long runs.  They will help you push through and the miles will roll by much faster!
  3. Focus on distance: Long runs are about getting the mileage in.  Don’t think about pace!
  4. Get tuned in: Many studies have shown that listening to music can lower your perceived exertion.  Trick your mind into thinking you’re not working out as hard as you think.
  5. Recover the right way: It’s important to refuel within 30 minutes of your long run.  While running your miles go ahead and daydream about what you’ll indulge in after your run!


Mistakes to avoid on your long run
Nutrition & Hydration
Fuel your Body for Success

One of the most important things to run your best, is to have a balanced diet. To get the best in performance, endurance and recovery out of your body, you will need to be concentrating on not only what you eat but when you eat. Optimized running performances are dependent on consuming quality foods in a larger quantity, as well as careful timing of when you eat.

To eat like an athlete, follow these 5 rules as everyday guidelines:

  1. Don’t run on empty. Have a couple hundred-calorie snack about an hour before you head out to stay energized on your run. For runs longer than 60 minutes carry fuel and learn how eat on the run.
  2. Keep a healthy balance. Carbs are a great source of fuel for a runner, but fat and protein are just as important. Healthy fats help prevent injuries and keep the heart-healthy. Protein rebuilds muscle tissue to make you stronger.
  3. Start a food diary. Keep a diary of what you eat for a few days to get an idea of your food variety, fat and calorie intake. Make adjustments based on how you feel during runs and make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need.
  4. Nix the junk. Going out for a run after eating too many cookies or having too many cocktails can be brutal. Find a balance that works for you, like the 80-20 rule. 80% of the time maintain healthy eating habits and 20% of the time go ahead and indulge!
  5. Drink, drink, drink. Each day try to drink half your weight in ounces. Most runners tend to be dehydrated so make it a goal to stay hydrated!


Check out this great nutrition & hydration guide from Runner’s World
Training Plan Additions
Spice up Your Training Plan

Strength Training: 

Strength training is the backbone of most endurance training. Runners don’t need to build bulging muscles, but it is important to have a strong core as well as hip and lower leg strength. Adding strength training to your workouts will help you run as fluidly as possible.


Check out these strength exercises specifically for runners



Cross-training activities can be used to supplement your running, improve muscle balance and keep you from getting bored. Try swimming, biking, rowing, etc. to keep your aerobic fitness level high while giving yourself a break from the pounding of running.

Remember to choose workouts that are closest to running in terms of muscles used and aerobic systems taxed. Get your heart rate up. You should be working hard and sweating a lot. Combine cross-training with running to maximize running fitness with lower actual mileage. You can substitute 25 to 30 percent of your weekly “mileage” with cross-training.


Recovery Days:

Recovery is an important—but often neglected—part of training plans. Take your easy days seriously so you’ll run your best when it really counts. A day off every 7 to 14 days restocks glycogen stores, builds strength, and reduces fatigue. Most injuries come from overtraining and overuse. A day of cross-training, rest, or easy miles can prevent time off due to injury. After a hard workout, tough run, or if you just feel like taking a few days off, rest will speed up your body’s recovery time considerably. Make days of rest fun by trying a new activity or hang out with family friends! Make sure to add recovery days to your training plan to ensure you take them.

Injury Prevention
Stay Healthy
A review of studies suggests that in any given year 65 – 80 percent of runners are sidelined due to injury. Knowing how to train properly and safely is crucial to staying injury-free. Most experts agree that to lower injury risk, you need a strong body, good form, and the right shoe. Above all, listen to your body and take the proper amount of rest days. Know your training limits when increasing mileage and use strength training to build up your running muscles. We want you to cross the finish line injury-free!
The 10 injury prevention commandments below will help you stay injury-free:
  1. Rest and recover. Rest days and recovery weeks need to be built into your training plan.
  2. Use recovery techniques. Invest in a foam roller or massage stick to help your sore muscles recover faster. Experiment to find which technique works best for you.
  3. Sleep! Cardiovascular performance can be compromised up to 20% with sleep deprivation. Grab a nap if you can’t get in an average of 8 hours each night.
  4. Eat post-exercise. Fuel after exercise restores muscles and glycogen stores, while also repairing muscle tissue, so eat up!
  5. Warm-up and cool down. A proper warm-up will prepare your body for the demands of training. A good cool down is the first step in proper recovery after a run.
  6. Strength train. Adding strength training will help facilitate bone health to enhance injury resistance.
  7. Go shoe shopping. Get to your local running store and be fitted by an expert.
  8. Use the 10% rule. Increase weekly training hours, or volume, but only by 10% or less.
  9. Speed it up. Interval training will improve your oxygen levels and increase your racing speed.
  10. More is better. More recovery will allow your body to adapt to a heavier training load. Rest up to build up your training volume (miles).
When you’ve got muscle aches or joint pains, there’s nothing better than RICE; rest, ice, compression, and elevation for immediate treatment. RICE helps to relieve pain, reduce swelling, and protect damaged tissues, all of which speed healing. RICE is most effective when done immediately following an injury. Apply ice—for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, several times a day and remember to take rest days after an injury!
If injury pain persists or gets worse, make an appointment with a physical therapist or doctor that specializes in athletic injuries.

Take a look at the most common running injuries and learn how to prevent them

Hill Training
Elevate Your Training

Hill training is important to runners for multiple reasons. In a nutshell, hills are important because they create variety and intensity improving your endurance, anaerobic capacity, speed, power, running economy, and overall strength.

Climbing a hill naturally increases heart rate, which improves both your aerobic (endurance) and your anaerobic capacity. Hills also strengthen your muscular system to increase leg power, which helps to improve your running form. Running uphill lifts your knees up higher than usual, improving stride length and speed.

In flat areas of the country, runners often have to find hill alternatives. Bridges or parking garages can be a good substitute. Of course, you can also use the treadmill for a hill workout. Set an incline of 5-8% and run for 30 to 45 seconds to simulate a hill.


Take a look at why hill training is important to runners
Speed Work
Pick up the Pace

Whether you’re a casual runner or looking to qualify for the Boston Marathon, you should incorporate some kind of rapid, shorter repeats into your training. Speed work encourages runners to focus, makes workouts more meaningful and teaches you to concentrate in a way that approaches the mindset of a race. Speed work will also have a positive effect on your running form. You’ll have an erect posture, not a slouch and there will be a bounce to your stride helping to lengthen it.

There are many speed workouts out there to find and try, but if you are just starting out here are some introductory workouts to ease into speed:

1. Easy fartlek. Fartlek, or speed play, is variable-pace running. During a 30-minute run, choose an object to run to as you pick up your pace–telephone poles, trees, buildings, runners, whatever. Choose things that vary in distances so your pickups are anywhere between 15 to 90 seconds. Drop back down to a recovery pace before your next pick up.

2. Stopwatch fartlek. After 10 minutes on a 30-minute run, begin alternating 15 seconds quick, 45 seconds easy, 15 seconds quick and so on, until you’ve done 5-6 segments. Some running watches can be set to beep when you should change pace. Otherwise, just glance at your watch periodically to keep track of when it’s time to change.

3. Hills. Warm-up with a 10-minute run to a hill that has a steady slope. Run up at a constant pace for 30-45 seconds; jog back down and repeat 4-6 more times. Move at a speed that allows you to finish each segment without gasping. Remember to focus on form using the hill as more resistance.

4. Strides. Before or after a run on a track, run quickly for about 15 seconds every time you begin a straightaway, ease off and jog until the next straightaway and begin another 15-second stride. Do this for a mile or so (eight to 12 strides). A lot of runners also enjoy doing strides in a grass field. Striding for 15 seconds one way, then jogging back to repeat.

5. Races (5Ks and 10Ks). Running shorter distance races helps you learn to run at a constant (maybe faster) pace over a longer period of time. A lot of training advice is based on a runner’s 5K and 10K times. Knowing your personal benchmarks at these distances can help you plan your speed work.

Tune-up Races
Gain Some Experience

To perform at their best it’s important for athletes to put themselves in competitive environments before actually toeing the line at a big race. This is what makes tune-up races so important. Completing smaller races during your training can help with mental preparation for the big race. Tune-up races teach you how to push through the pain harder than you probably would in a training run. Familiarity with racing also helps eliminate anxiety, which can otherwise severely impede performance. Tune-up races also serve as a great dress rehearsal for your big race and expose you to anything and everything that can go both right and wrong during competition. In knowing what to expect, anxiety can be dampened and performance improved. As you become more confident in the race environment, you’ll surely see jumps in performance. Grab your training calendar and sign up for some tune-up races. Why put in all the miles without picking up a few extra race T-shirts and medals along the way?!


Learn when to incorporate tune-up races into your training
Stay Alert!

Whether you are a seasoned runner or new to running, it’s easy to focus on pace, your next race, the outdoor scenery, music blasting from your ipod, and overlook many issues associated with safety while out running.  It’s a topic many of us do not like to think about, and a shame some aspects of it even need to be discussed, but it is very important and one that should not be ignored.  While you can’t always eliminate every safety concern, you can be smart and make choices that help improve the likelihood of a fun, safe run.

Keep the general running safety tips below from the Road Runners Club of America in mind on all of your runs.​

  • Keep headphone volume low. Use your ears to be aware of your surroundings. Your ears may help you avoid dangers your eyes may miss during evening or early morning runs. If you need music to run, try just wearing one earphone and keep the volume low.
  • Run against traffic so you can observe approaching automobiles. By facing on-coming traffic, you may be able to react quicker than if it is behind you.
  • Look both ways before crossing. Be sure the driver of a car acknowledges your right-of-way before crossing in front of a vehicle. Try to make eye contact with them.
  • Carry identification or write your name, phone number, and blood type on the inside sole of your running shoe. Include any medical information. Or get a Road ID!
  • Always stay alert and aware of what’s going on around you. The more aware you are, the less vulnerable you are.
  • Carry a cell phone or change for a phone call.Know the locations of public and emergency phones along your regular route.
  • Trust your intuition about a person or an area. Trust your intuition and avoid a person or situation if you’re uncomfortable. If something tells you a situation is not “right”, it isn’t.
  • Alter or vary your running route pattern. Run in familiar areas if possible. In unfamiliar areas, such as while traveling, contact a local club or running store. Know where open businesses or stores are located in case of emergency.
  • Run with a partner. Run with a dog. Run with a local group.
  • Write down or leave word of the direction of your run. Tell friends and family of your favorite running routes. If you run with your phone, get an app that shares your location with friends and family so they know where you are.  Check out a few of these.
  • Avoid unpopulated areas, deserted streets, and overgrown trails. Avoid unlit areas, especially at night. Run clear of parked cars or bushes.
  • Ignore verbal harassment and do not verbally harass others. Use discretion in acknowledging strangers. Look directly at others and be observant, but keep your distance and keep moving.
  • Wear reflective material if you must run before dawn or after dark. Wear a headlamp or carry a flashlight as well. Avoid running on the street when it is dark.
  • Practice memorizing license tags or identifying characteristics of strangers.
  • Carry a noisemaker. Get training in self-defense. Here are some great self defense products for runners.
  • When using multi-use trails, follow the rules of the road. If you alter your direction, look over your should before crossing the trail to avoid a potential collision with an oncoming cyclist or passing runner.
  • CONTACT POLICE IMMEDIATELY if something happens to you or someone else, or you notice anyone out of the ordinary. It is important to report incidents immediately.
Injury Recovery
Come Back Stronger

Getting injured or being sidelined by illness stinks! It doesn’t matter if you’re an elite runner or you’re training for your first 5k. Being sidelined is physically and emotionally hard to deal with. Unfortunately, injuries are also very common. Research estimates that eighty-two percent of runners will get injured at some point in their running career. We can take all the proper precautions to make sure that we’ll never have to worry about injuries, but the reality is that no one is immune to them. Always listen to your body. Take your scheduled rest days and if you feel worn out on a run day, move it to another. Soreness that fades as you run or goes away after a run is probably nothing to worry about, but stop and see a doctor if you have persistent pain or pain that gets worse while running.

Training for a big race leaves little to chance and doesn’t allow for skimping. It entails pushing your body to it’s limit with a higher-than-usual risk of illness or injury. As a result, few runners actually see their training plan executed perfectly on their planned timeline. When your race training is rocked by sickness, aches and pains, or other circumstances, your plan needs to be adjusted accordingly and resumed once you’re healthy again.


Learn how to return to training after being sidelined
Race Day Etiquette
Be a Courteous Runner

The final countdown to race weekend is coming fast!  If you’re not giddy yet, you will certainly feel the excitement on race morning.  There are some aspects of race day that no amount of training can prepare you for.  Dodging gel packs and water cups littering the ground comes to mind, but there’s also a right and wrong way to race with a friend, slow down for walk breaks, and, yes, wear the race shirt and medal.

  • Maybe DON’T race in the event shirt.  Some consider it bad luck to race in the event shirt before crossing the finish line, but more importantly it’s never a good idea to wear untested gear to the starting line.
  • DO start in your assigned corral.  The corral system allows for a smooth race start for participants of varying speeds.  Based on your estimated finish time, you are assigned a race number and corresponding corral with other participants of similar pace.  Starting in a too-quick group, can also destroy your pacing strategy and throw off your own race.
  • DON’T stop suddenly on the course.  Whether you’re stopping for water or tying your shoelaces, make sure to move slowly to the side of the course and avoid cutting off other runners when coming to a stop.  Skip the first tables at each water stop, which are likely to be the most crowded, and set your sights on the less crowded end tables.
  • Maybe DON’T run right next to your partner.  Racing with a friend can help you maintain your pace and provide encouragement.  But if you’re running side by side, you could be blocking the path, especially in the early congested miles and at water stops.  Agree on a signal to go from side by side to single file, and decide who’ll go first every time.
  • Do use caution when approaching the finish line.  Be mindful of other runners, and don’t stop suddenly right at the finish line, as it can lead to congestion.  Make sure to keep moving forward through the chute after the finish and get your well-deserved medal!
  • Do wear the medal after the race!  You earned it! Wear your medal proudly around for the rest of the day and evening!

Race-day running can be very different from solo training runs.  You’ve put in the miles; now feed off of the positive energy from the crowd!  Relax, stay calm, be aware of your surroundings, and have fun!

Race Rehearsal
Practice Makes Perfect

It’s finally here – this week is your longest (and last!) long run of your training plan. This run should be your dress rehearsal for the race.

Simulate your race conditions as closely as possible this weekend on your run with these must DO’s:

  • DO the workout on terrain that’s as similar as possible to what you’ll encounter in your race.
  • DO plan to run at the official start time.  Wake up early enough to eat your pre-race meal, use the bathroom and warm-up before your run.  This teaches your body to perform at the appointed hour and also lets you work out your fueling strategy: how much breakfast to eat and when.
  • DO prepare your nutrition and hydration as you plan to use it during the race.  Practicing your gels, chews, water and/or other hydration product intake now will help you sort out any fueling issues and avoid any mid-race emergencies.
  • DO wear the same gear that you plan to wear for your race – as close as possible for your weather conditions.  That includes the same clothes, shoes, socks, fuel belt, and other running accessories that you plan to wear on race day. REMEMBER NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY.
  • DO plan to practice your pacing strategy.

This is your peak week in training so make sure to get some extra rest and sleep well!

Time to Back Off

Training provides long-term fitness improvements but produces fatigue as well.  Leading up to an important race, it can be a challenge to find the balance between maintaining the best possible racing fitness level and getting enough rest to reduce the fatigue of training.  The last few weeks before your race, it’s important to cut back your mileage to give your body and mind a chance to rest, recover, and prepare for race day.  This is referred to as a taper.

Several studies concluded that the optimal length of taper is seven days to three weeks, depending on the distance of the race and how hard you’ve trained.  Too short a taper will leave you tired on race day, while tapering for too long will lead to a loss of fitness.  Even though you may feel sluggish and lazy while tapering, it’s important to stick to your training plan through the taper to race day.

Here are some general guidelines for tapering:

  • Shave off miles weekly by about 15-20% each week during your taper.
  • Your final taper week mileage should be reduced by 50-75% of your peak training week.
  • Dropping your miles during your taper doesn’t mean dropping intensity as well.  Keep up the intensity of your runs!
  • Don’t be surprised if you feel some new aches and pains during the tapering period.  It’s a normal part of the process as your body repairs itself from months of training.

Sleep is also an important part of the tapering process.  Aim for at least eight hours per night.  Don’t forget to hydrate and keep up with good nutrition!

Pre-Race Jitters

Nervous about your upcoming race? Don’t worry, the pre-race jitters are a normal part of competition. Everyone experiences them, even the elites! You’ve put a lot of effort into your training and care about your performance so of course you’re nervous.

To ease your nerves we’ve complied some common pre-race jitters as well as some advice to cope with them.

1. Second-guessing Syndrome

As the race gets closer the realization starts to hit–Everything I’ve done to prepare for this race is wrong! You’re thinking I should have run more intervals. My long runs weren’t long enough. I didn’t do nearly enough hill work. That gel packet upset my stomach on one long run so should I not eat it on race day? Did I rest too much?!

Relax. The training you scheduled and followed was the training you needed. Even if your training wasn’t perfect, chances are good that you’re fit to race.

2. Spontaneous Injuries

It never fails. During your short taper runs you’ll suddenly be overwhelmed with aches and pains. Ankles will feel twisted, knees will hurt and you’ll feel short of breath from tired legs.

Have no fear though these feelings are to be expected. Anyone who trains hard, like you have, will develop sore spots. Training breaks down muscle so that it can rebuild stronger. Normally, we shrug off these minor aches and pains–until race anxiety amplifies them, creating the illusion of major injury. Once race morning arrives and you start running…all those pre-race jitter injury feelings will suddenly disappear!

3. Routine Changes

Nervous runners sometimes change their daily routines too much when a race is approaching. They might skip work, avoid stairs, do too much extra stretching and lay on the couch for multiple days. But when our bodies operate outside our normal routine we tend to increase our anxiety even more.

Instead of altering your daily life, stay within your comfort zone. Walk the dog, go to work or school, wash the car, take out the garbage and stick to your taper. Don’t question your readiness!

4. Food Experimentation

Runners have been seeking better racing through diet since carboloading became popular in the 60’s. But our stomachs can be finicky. Diet changes should be tested out long before race week. New diets or even a slight change in your regular diet can lead to new and unpleasant gastrointestinal reactions. Your stomach will already be upset from race nervousness, so don’t make it worse by trying that new fad diet 2 weeks before race day.

Another thing to think about with diet is your food intake volume. If you haven’t been carboloading before your long runs, don’t go to the all you can eat spaghetti dinner the night before the race! Remember, stick to the volume of food you’ve been eating before training runs. You don’t want to suddenly have to carbo-unload during the event.

5. Easy On The Warm-up

You’re near the starting line, waiting for the port-o-potty and ready to begin your race warm-up. You spot what looks to be an elite runner doing a mini-speed session for their warm-up. Immediately you think, wait, should I be doing that for my warm-up?! No you shouldn’t! By now you know race day is no time to experiment with anything, even your simple warm-up. Your body has adapted to the warm-up rhythm you’ve been doing throughout training, so stick to your routine.

6. Start Slow!

Race day is here, your adrenaline is pumping and it’s so tempting to go out to fast during the first portion of a race. Reign yourself in. Nothing can be more destructive to a race performance than a fast start. The laws of physiology do not change from your training runs to races. You don’t sprint the first mile of a 10-mile run, you don’t put yourself into oxygen debt the first ten minutes of a long run and you don’t blow your legs out in the first half mile, so why do that on race day? Make a conscious effort to hold yourself back. There will be plenty of miles to make up time if you feel good and want to pick up the pace.

Remember the phrase, slow and steady wins the race…it wins the race you’re running with yourself!

7. Brain Off – Legs On

Runners can become so blinded and obsessed by pace calculations, weather reports, course concerns, shoe decisions, race day nutrition and running form to the point where they fail to remember that a race is just another run. It’s impossible to plan ahead for every conceivable aspect of a race, there are simply too many variables. Stop overthinking every detail, be adaptable and your jitters will disappear. Just keep those legs moving and you’ll reach the finish line!

A good, successful race is one in which we find our correct effort level for that day, maintain it from start to finish and feel good at the end. Successful runners plan to avoid race jitters by accepting that their effort will be sufficient. Remember you may have to adjust your race day effort based on weather and how you feel that day.

Race Week
It’s Finally Here!

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the most exciting week in your training, race week!  Months of training and hard work have prepared you for your big race day.  You’ve done the long runs, completed the workouts, stuck to the diet and are almost through your taper.  If this is your first big race, you’re probably feeling excited, nervous, and a little apprehensive.  Even if you’ve run the distance before, you’re probably feeling excited, nervous, and a little apprehensive!  Beginners and seasoned pros both experience the race week jitters!

Here are some tips to prep yourself for race day during your final week:

  • Sleep: Nerves might keep you up the night before the race so make sure to grab a few extra hours of sleep during the week.
  • Relax: You’ve worked hard the last few months, take this week to enjoy your short, easy runs and stay loose.
  • Get off your feet: This is not the week to try that new standing desk, start a new home project or check out a new hiking trail.  Get your taper runs in, relax and put your feet up!
  • Hydrate: Carry a water bottle around with you this week to make sure you stay hydrated.  Don’t wait until the night before the race to chug water, start early in the week.
  • Eat smart: Watch the fiber intake this week and try not to overeat since you’ve backed off on your runs.  Keep your intake to predictable foods that won’t upset your digestive system.
  • Study the course: Hopefully you’ve been able to get out and run a few training runs on the course.  If not, study the course map to get an idea of the terrain, hill locations and aid station spots.  Even driving or biking the course can help you get a better idea of what to expect.
  • Plan race day logistics: There are a few things to think about on race day besides running.
    • Pre and post race transportation – how will you get to and from the race?
    • Spectator spots – where will you see your family and friends?
    • Post race bag check – what will you need immediately after the race?  Pack a bag for bag check with dry clothes, etc.
  • Race Strategy: Rehearse your race plan (negative splits, using a pacer, etc.) in your mind and be ready to adjust accordingly to how you’re feeling on race day.
  • Try nothing new: This is not the week to try new shoes, or a new running shirt you bought at the expo.  From attire, gear and food, stick with what worked for you in training.

Whatever the race outcome will be, you’ve worked hard to get here!  Stay positive throughout the race, do your best and take pride in knowing you’ve pushed yourself to the max!

Post Race
What Now?

Congratulations, you’ve accomplished your goal and completed the race with your RUN FOR AUTISM teammates!  Every training run, every workout and every mile was for something more; you’ve crossed the finish line with a sense of purpose.  Thank you for all of your hard work dedicating every mile towards autism research.

Even though your body is peak physical shape it’s time to recuperate properly to make sure you bounce back strong for the next race.  Races are tough on the body, there’s no way around that.  Muscles, bones, hormones, tendons, cells, and almost every physiological system is pushed to the max during a race.  Find a recovery plan and treat it like it’s an extended part of your training.  You’ll recover faster and return to training as quickly as possible.


Hal Higdon has a great post race recovery plan


A few days after the excitement of completing a race, many runners experience the post race blues.  It’s a completely normal feeling!  After all, you went from training for months with a big plan and goal, to finishing and thinking “now what?”.  Expecting this feeling to happen is a the first step to getting through it.  Below are a few ideas to help you get through the blues.

  1. Make different plans: Filling your post-race blues space immediately with more running events can lead to overtraining and injury.  Try planning a vacation or other activities to give yourself something to plan and look forward to a few weeks after your race.
  2. Enjoy your downtime: Remember all those hours you spent on your long runs during the weekend when your friends were out having fun?  Now you can join them!  Give yourself a break and enjoy all the activities you weren’t able to participate in while you were training.
  3. Set new goals: Look back on your training and race day performance to see what you’d like to focus on and improve.  If you struggled with the pre-race jitters, maybe try a couple of low-key, fun races to get your body used to racing.  If training for a long-distance was difficult, try re-evaluating your training plan or running a shorter distance race.  No matter what your new goals are, make sure to enjoy every race, every run and every mile!