What To Do The Night Before A 5K Race

Q:  I have my first race coming up. Do you have any tips on what to do the night before a 5K race? -MacKenzie

That’s exciting! You are wise to ask this question ahead of time as it pays to be organized and ready to go before the race nerves start to kick in. Here are a few key things to keep in mind.

Go With What You Know

This is my number one rule. Meaning, while you’ve been training for your 5k race, you’ve most likely figured out what has worked for you in terms of clothing, shoes, and the foods to eat before your event.  It’s best to stick with what your body knows and avoid trying anything new the week of your 5k, as it can cause issues on the race course.

5K Nutrition

Pre-race meals vary based on the person. It is recommended to eat a meal that is higher in carbohydrates the night before the race and to stock up your muscle glycogen fuels. This can mean pasta for some or rice, veggies and a protein source like chicken for others. It’s best to go with a meal that digests well in your system, as eating new or different foods this close to the race can cause stomach issues along the course. It helps to make a race week menu of foods that you’ve determined sit well in your stomach and digest easily. Remember, everyone is different so what works for you may not work for your running buddy and vice versa. (Related: What to Eat Before a 5K Race)

5K Clothes Prep

Lay out your clothes the night before, and everything you’ll need for race day. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think clearly that early in the morning so it helps to put everything you plan to wear to the race (including your race bib number if you have it already) on the night before as a dress rehearsal, and then lay it out in a visible place for the morning.

Relax and Visualize For Your 5K

Set yourself up for good sleep the week of your race by going to bed earlier and turning off distractions in your room (phone, lights, etc.).  It can be challenging to get sleep the night before the race, so going into race weekend well rested can make a significant difference in your performance. If you find yourself struggling to sleep the night before, try this pre-race night deep 2-minute breathing exercise:

  • Turn off the lights and make sure the bedroom is dark
  • Lie down in bed and close your eyes
  • Breathe in and out deeply through your nose and into your belly, tuning in to the sound of your breath
  • If your mind wanders, no worries, simply refocus it back to your breath
  • Once your breathing is calm and deep, visualize yourself moving through race day, from waking up and putting on your race day clothes to toeing the line at the start to running every mile and finishing strong
  • See yourself running strong and through any challenges, finishing that 5k race

You’ll be surprised at just how effective this little breathing exercise can be for calming race day nerves and improving your sleep!

5K Race Day!

Give yourself plenty of time to get to the race and plan to arrive at least one hour before the race begins. This way you’ll have plenty of time to find the bathrooms, double check you have everything and get lined up at the race start.

As you navigate your way through race week, it’s good to know that everyone feels some level of nervousness before the race, especially for your first one. Being organized and prepared will help keep you calm and focused on the things you can control. For everything else that is outside of your control, let go and have faith in your preparation–it’s what’s gotten you to this point, and it will help you run a strong race, too.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield




Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.

Join the Sofa to 5K Challenge


Have you ever wanted to run a 5K race? Well now is your chance! In just 10 short weeks, Coach Jenny will have you up and running — and well on your way to completing your first 5K.

The easy-to-follow, 10-week Sofa-to-5K training program begins Monday, September 15, 2014 and ends with running a community 5K by Sunday, November 30, 2014.

When you sign up, you will receive weekly email updates from Coach Jenny during your training, including workouts and helpful tips to completing your first 5K. We also invite you to join the Horizon Fitness Sofa-to-5K Challenge Facebook group for even more exclusive help from Coach Jenny, including real-time answers to your questions.

Once you complete your race, visit the Sofa to 5K Challenge Facebook page to upload your race photo and story of how the Challenge changed you and you will be entered to win a Horizon Fitness treadmill, elliptical or exercise bike . All participants will also receive a custom Sofa to 5K t-shirt!

First things first: sign up by visiting the Sofa to 5K website. You’ll also find a welcome video by Coach Jenny, a sample training plan and the official contest rules. Also don’t forget to sign up for the challenge group – a great way to find support and motivation during the program. Join us here.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

What To Eat Before A 5K Race

A 5K race (3.1 miles) is a great distance for beginning racers, as well as for more experienced runners looking to warm-up for the season. To give yourself every pre-race advantage, it’s important to consider what you put into your body.

As you’ve heard countless times before, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. What you eat before your race, and when you eat it, could have a big impact on your energy level and overall performance. Here are a few common practices used by endurance athletes and how they could affect your race–for better or worse.

Nutrition Myths To Avoid

Traditional endurance wisdom encourages carbohydrate loading or “carbo-loading,” by eating large amounts of carbohydrates the day before and the day of your race. The logic behind this is that carbohydrates are the body’s primary fuel, especially during exercise, when they account for 40 to 50 percent of energy production.

The problem with this theory becomes clear when you understand that the fuel used during exercise is stored in your muscles and liver. If you think of these stored carbohydrates as fuel in a car, then your muscles and liver can be compared to the gas tank. Like a car’s gas tank, there is a limit to how much fuel can be stored. Numerous studies have shown that not only does the carbo-loading myth offer no benefit to  runners – it could actually slow you down.

Another common practice is to eat simple carbohydrates, like honey or sugar, shortly before the race for a quick boost of energy. This, however, can lead to dehydration: your cells need excess water to absorb the sugar. The sugar spike will also lead to an insulin reaction, which will cause your blood sugar to drop sharply later on, leaving you tired and sluggish.

Planning a Proper Breakfast

Experts at the Colorado State University Extension recommend eating a light meal three to four hours before your race so your body has ample time to properly break down the necessary nutrients. This will also give your stomach time to settle. The meal should feature starches from complex carbohydrates, which break down more quickly and easily than proteins and fats. Avoid foods that are high in fat and simple sugars. Good examples of appropriate foods are whole wheat or multigrain bread, cold cereal, pasta, fruits and vegetables. Unlike the carbo-loading approach, these should be eaten in moderation, with the entire meal totaling only around 500 calories.

Adventure 5 Treadmill

Small amounts of caffeine may help improve your athletic performance, according to several studies. Be careful, however, since coffee is a diuretic and can increase the risk of stomach cramps and dehydration during the race.

It’s also important to select foods that you enjoy, and that you know your digestive system tolerates well, because your mood and comfort will affect your performance. Don’t use the morning of the race as an opportunity to try something new for breakfast since it could backfire and cause discomfort or digestive troubles. Try a variety of foods throughout your training plan to find what works for you.

In addition to your meal, you should drink at least 64 ounces of water leading up to the event, but stop drinking at least 30 minutes before the race begins. Having excess water in your system will make you feel bloated, slow you down and possibly give you stomach cramps.

Elite T7 Treadmill

Because a 5K is a relatively short race, it’s not necessary to follow a particular diet in the days leading up to the event. Maintaining a generally healthy, balanced diet and eating an appropriate light breakfast will give you the nutrient stores you need to perform your best on race day.

Lastly, if you’re looking for a training plan for your first 5K, check out this video:




5 Ways to fit in fitness during the holidays

The holiday season means plenty of shopping, cooking, eating, drinking and … exercise.


If you’re like most people, maybe not so much. Hectic schedules — coupled with colder temperatures and fewer daylight hours — prompt many people to throw their fitness routine to the curb until after the New Year.

But you don’t have to let yourself go during the holidays. Taking care of yourself, with exercise, a healthy diet and plenty of sleep, is key for good health. Regular exercise can also increase your energy levels and ease holiday stress. Not to mention being active can help keep the eggnog and stuffing from lingering on your hips. The average person gains about one pound during the holiday season, but exercise can help you ward off this weight gain.

Here are five tips to help you keep your exercise regime in the middle of the holiday crunch:

1. Set realistic goals. If you usually run five days per week, shoot for three or four days each week during this busy time of year. If you normally spend an hour on the elliptical, just aim for 20 to 30 minutes. Likewise, save big goals — like losing 10 lbs or training for a marathon — until a time when you have fewer obligations. Strive to maintain your weight and fitness level during the holidays and rev it up again come January.

2. Plan ahead. Map out the day and set aside time for fitness. We tend to find time for our biggest priorities, so carve out some time in your day to be active. Take a walk on your lunch break, do a workout DVD instead of lounging in front of the TV or wake up 15 minutes earlier and start your day with a short yoga sequence.

3. Multitask. Skip the gym and get in a workout while crossing off items on your holiday to-do list. Power-walk while you shop, do lunges, push-ups and sit-ups while you wait for your pumpkin pie to bake and dance while you tidy the house. Remember that some exercise is always better than none.

4. Be flexible. Planned on going to the gym but mall traffic tied you up? Sometimes even the best of intentions get thwarted. Try to find time for a shortened exercise session later in the day. But don’t sweat it if you end up skipping a workout or two. Experts say we can usually afford to cut back on exercise for a few weeks without sacrificing fitness.

5. Create new traditions. The holidays are a joyful time to catch up and celebrate with loved ones.The laughter and reminiscing doesn’t have to take place around the dinner table, though. Now is the perfect time to create new, active traditions with your family. Gather the troops and play an annual Thanksgiving game of tough football, ask your friends to join you for a local “jingle jog” 5k race and take the kids ice skating on New Year’s Eve.

How do you motivate yourself to stay active over the holidays? I always remind myself that I’ll never regret doing a workout, but I’ll almost always regret skipping it.