Summer on the Run is a 12-week blog and video series that follows former Olympic swimmer and avid runner Summer Sanders on her journey to train for Disney's Princess Half Marathon on Feb. 24.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, she will share training tips, and a little inspiration, as she gears up for the main event. Use hashtag #GoRun on Twitter to follow Summer and be part of the ongoing conversation.
This is the week to pay attention, more than ever, to what you put on your plate. About five days before your race, start watching what you eat. If you are questioning whether you should eat something -- a new spicy takeout dish? -- say no, and save it for after the race. A great way to get all the right nutrients is to make a colorful plate -- mix of good vegetables, carbohydrates, and protein. If you notice all your vegetables are green, change it up, and add another color for a variety of benefits in one meal.
This is also the week to hydrate all day every day. You can't possibly get all the water you need the morning of, or even the night before, your race. Drink more water than usual in the days leading up your race to prepare your body for your big day.
Your race-morning breakfast is also crucial. I love having a bagel with peanut butter, and I crave my cup of coffee. A bowl of cereal or oatmeal works, too. Just don't go overboard on the fruit or the coffee. I love the flavor of coffee, but I don't want to stop for bathroom breaks, so I limit myself to just one cup on race morning.
What will help you most after that are the Gu, gummies, or gels that you take throughout the race. The trick is to eat it before you feel you need it. I take one at the start, and I keep taking them as necessary throughout my race. Treat it like medicine after surgery -- take it before it hurts so that you don't fall behind. You don't want to play catch up on anything when you're pushing your body so hard. I even take one toward the end of my race for a final boost. You may as well give your body everything it needs to get you through all 13.1 or 26.2 miles.
What I do, and what I'd recommend, is to take a cup of Gatorade and a cup of water as often as possible. I grab a cup of each at every fluid station. I walk just long enough to drink some from each cup and give my body the electrolytes and hydration it needs.
It's not great to stop completely since there will always be runners behind you, and some people find it hard to start up again, so I walk briskly through each station. I'm not good at running and drinking at the same time; it used to make me choke, and I always spilled. There's nothing worse than running with sticky Gatorade all over you. There's plenty of time to think out on the road, so you don't want to get distracted by silly things like that. Get your drink on, and then get moving.
The worst thing is to pass a water station and then realize you should've stopped; it's one very long mile when you're thirsty and tired. It reminds me of missing the last gas station on a road trip -- don't give yourself something to regret! The only fluid station I sometimes skip is the last one.
I always feel the effects of all the Gu and Gatorade all day. That's why I never serve it to my kids as a normal drink, and I use it only when I'm training for a race. It's perfect for endurance sports. It shouldn't be treated like fruit juice. These products created for us athletes come in handy when we need them, so consider them training tools, not daily treats in the offseason.
Summer knows that many runners take race day very seriously. No matter your goal, it should also be something you look forward to and enjoy, despite the logistics and inevitably, the pain. There is a very good reason why runners go through this again and again -- it's uplifting, it's inspiring, and it's worth it each and every time. Carpe diem, and savor the moment!