It is that time of year when many of our patients are gearing up to compete. Whether it be running, triathlon, paddle boarding, adventure racing or a variety of other competitions and personal challenges, dates are set and calendars are marked. With training getting serious, it is easy to focus on the obvious goals of times, sets, reps, intervals and nutrition. As race day gets closer, however, it is important to do more than the straight forward training.

In triathlon, especially, it is important to practice transitions from one discipline to another. How to get out of the wetsuit and onto the bike safely and efficiently, making sure not to leave anything behind, is an important step to a successful day. Waiting for race day to get comfortable with this process is not generally advisable and most people do make time to practice it at least a bit.

The most common mistake I see with patients and their training is this – they fail to practice race day. What I mean is this – has your body practiced and trained for a similar race day experience (to the best of your ability)? Surely you have planned on your race day nutrition, but have you ever got up at 4:15 a.m. and eaten your two banana and Nutella sandwiches with a quart of sports drink? If you have not, race day is not the time to find out that this combo is actually going to sit like a rock in your stomach. (Of course it may not, this is actually my preferred pre-race meal on Ironman day.)

Additionally, have you trained regularly at the same time of day you will be competing. If the only time you swim is after work, a 7 a.m. race start may be quite the shock to your system. I had one patient who trained for his first marathon by running in the evening for the many months leading up to the race. Even though he did the proper training, his body was not used to running early and he was not used to the warm up necessary to do so. The result? Easily an hour longer race day than he should have finished.

So there is more to competing than the obvious training that must be done. By planning and executing normal race day times and habits, you will be giving yourself the best shot of achieving your goals.