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Myth 2: A rest day before the race will keep your legs fresh.
The day before a race is an important day and one that’s full of decisions that can affect your performance. You’ve got to fuel properly and prepare your body and mind for optimal performance the next day. It’s not surprising then that one of the most common mistakes runners make is resting the day before the race. Like the myth of not wanting to warm up for fear of getting tired, many runners think that running the day before a race will make their legs tired for the next day. This is false! Not only will running the day before not make you tired, but it can dramatically improve your performance.
Regardless if you’re racing a mile or a marathon, a 15 to 20-minute run the day before a race won’t hurt you. If your recovery runs during the hardest portion of your training cycle have enabled you to adequately recover between hard workouts, what would change the day before your race? The answer is nothing. A short run serves to prepare your body and mind to perform well the following day.
So what are the benefits? Like the warmup, a run the day before a race helps improve blood flow to the muscles, which allows them to loosen up and delivers the nutrients and oxygen they will need for the intense running the next day. When racing a the half marathon or marathon, running the day before will even help your muscles store extra glycogen.
A short pre-race run will also stimulate the central nervous system, which responds quickly to new stimuli because the growth and recovery cycle is very short. In fact, you can make small improvements to your neuromuscular coordination in less than a day. Conversely, degradation of the neuromuscular system can occur in a day or two, which means if you don’t run the day before the race, your neuromuscular system isn’t performing at an optimal level. This is why runners often feel lethargic and stiff when they don’t run for a day or two.