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Rest before a Major Race

Should you train or rest before a major race?

The best way to train a couple of days before an important race or a marathon is to stop training altogether. How long you can exercise a muscle depends on how much sugar you can store in that muscle before you start to exercise. Dr. Dave Costill of Ball State University asked one group of highly- trained runners to jog at a slow pace on the two days prior to measuring their muscle sugars and another group to not jog at all. The runners who didn't jog stored the most sugar.

Studies on bicycle racers show that their muscles will load maximally with sugar when they take a very hard workout four days prior to racing and then ride easily for the next three days. However, running three or four days before a marathon will decrease the amount of sugar that muscles can store, presumably because hard running damages muscles and interferes with their ability to store sugar.

There is no evidence that a hard workout in the week before a race will help a runner during that race. Hard training tears down muscles and it take several days for the muscles to heal sufficiently to improve performance. Run at a slow pace on the fifth, fourth and third day before your event, and do not run at all on the last two days.

Checked 8/19/16

May 11th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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