Get ready for the Coffs Harbour Running Festival

Prep and recover from the Coffs Harbour Running Festival like a pro with these tips from Southern Cross University experts in sports science, psychology, podiatry, exercise and nutrition science.

1. Get your mind into gear

Half the battle of any physical activity is mental. When it comes to an endurance sport like running, the psychology or mental preparation can be as important as physical training. Part of this mental preparation involves setting goals. 

Setting the right type of goal is key to success for inexperienced runners, says Southern Cross University Senior Lecturer in psychology Dr Christian Swann. “The research tells us that for first-time runners, setting an open-ended goal can lead to less pressure and actually result in better outcomes for the athlete.”

An example of an open-ended goal might be to see how you well you can do on the day, based on your physical preparation, without putting a time constraint on your performance. This also opens the way to improving on your time in your next race.

2. Pace yourself

Training and pacing are two areas where the advice of sports scientists can be gold. Novice runners should progress their training over time and aim to conserve energy for the second half of the race, says Southern Cross University Senior Lecturer in exercise science Dr Chris Stevens.

Progressing your training over time is important. For an inexperienced runner, the goal is to build up the total running distance over time, especially by progressing a long slow distance session each week. “A useful rule is to not increase your weekly training distance by more than 10 per cent each week,” advises Dr Stevens.

When it comes to race day, emotions and adrenaline can take over, but thinking about and planning your pacing beforehand can help enormously. “Often runners will start a race too fast and then they are forced to run at a speed that is slower than their potential,” says Dr Stevens. “Aim instead for an even pace throughout. Less experienced runners particularly should start slower than a comfortable running pace and aim to increase their pace in the second half of the race.”

3. Put your best foot forward

Choosing a shoe is one of the most important pre-running decisions you’ll make says Southern Cross podiatry expert Dr Paul Butterworth.

“Running shoes, like all footwear, have different aspects to them. We refer to it as footwear anatomy. This includes a heel counter, a toe box and the upper of the footwear. All of these aspects of footwear anatomy vary according to the make and model of the shoe, but it’s important to understand what kind of foot you have and how to choose the right footwear for you,” says Dr Butterworth.

When deciding what to wear for the running festival, athletes should use common sense, making sure footwear fits and that it doesn’t cause any blisters or irritation. “Blisters are one of the biggest problems we see in runners. You should be wearing in your runners well before the big day – it sounds like basic advice but the last thing you should do is arrive on the day with new or nearly new shoes,” said Dr Butterworth.

4. Nutrition and hydration

It’s easy to take hydration and nutrition for granted but these can be fundamental in your preparation, performance and even in your recovery, says Southern Cross University food and nutrition science lecturer Holly Muggleston.

“A few days before the race, you need to pay attention to your carbohydrate stores. These take the form of glycogen in your muscles and this is what will fuel your muscles during the race,” said Ms Muggleston.

“At each meal in the days before the race, you should slightly increase the normal amount of carbohydrate that you consume. This could be with grains, muffins, fruit, potato, legumes, even flavoured milk, anything with starch and sugars – these will increase your glycogen stores”.

Hydration is equally important. The best way to check this is by checking your urine. “About two to two-and-a-half days before the race, keep checking your urine. If your urine is a very pale yellow you know you are sufficiently hydrated. If not, then you need to up your intake of fluids,” said Ms Muggleston.

5. Recovery

Immersing yourself in near-freezing water might sound like a unique kind of torture after running but research shows that you are doing your body a massive kindness by speeding up the recovery process, says Southern Cross University exercise scientist Dr Luke del Vecchio.

“Immersing the body in cold water, for 10-15 minutes at temperatures between 10-15 degrees, reduces body temperature, blood flow and inflammation in tissues of the muscles. In layman's terms, ice-baths change the way blood, and other fluids flow through your body.

“When you sit in cold water, your blood vessels constrict; when you get out, they dilate. Much like the effect of wringing water out of a rag or towel. This process helps flush away metabolic waste post-exercise,” he said.

Similar to the ice-bath, using the foam roller after exercise speeds up the recovery process by improving blood flow to the muscles, relieving muscle tension, joint stress and increasing the range of motion or flexibility in the body.

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