How to Create a Race Routine
Routines are important for performance, whether you’re a preparing for a race, aiming to increase productivity, or looking for a healthy solution to limit anxiety. During times of stress, establishing a routine provides certainty when there are many things that are uncertain – as we discussed in this article.
“I like to ‘control the controllables’, as we say,” says Dani Johnson. “I know what to expect and how to prepare not only physically but mentally.”
No matter what cycling discipline you compete in, race week/weekend/day is stressful. There are plenty of things you can’t control – the competition, the weather, course conditions, etc – but by creating a routine, you are creating a system to organize all of elements you have control over. And, in doing so, you’ll reserve physical energy and brain power for what’s really important: crushing it in the race!
“The less I have to worry about, the better,” says Serena Bishop Gordon. “When I know my shoes are in my bag because I have a packing list and checked that item off, I can rest easy. Excellent performance comes from excellent preparation - in training and on race day. Don't let poor planning on race day sabotage all your hard work.”
Everyone’s race routine will be different. It’s all about finding what works for you. So how do you go about creating a routine? Check out some of our top tips below!
Routines are important for your personal performance because establishing habits and getting to know what you need and what works best for you is essential. -Riley
Creating a race-day routine doesn’t start on race week. It takes time to find out what works for you and build habits that will enable you to feel as relaxed as possible on race day. Training rides are the perfect opportunity to try out preparations that will eventually become part of your race routine.
How long does it take you to get from rolling out of the bed to leaving the house? What do you eat for breakfast? What do you include in your warm-up? How long will you warm up before hitting the trail? Will you include any visualization or mediation exercises before you get on the bike?
These questions are all answered by practicing.
Routines evolve. What works and what doesn't? Write it down. Start a google workbook: packing list, race day routine, warm up, tires/psi, fueling and nutrition strategy. Continue to make notes and refine. -Serena
Starting a race/training journal or creating a digital database is a great way to organize everything you learn from your on-bike training sessions. Log all the information you can: what you ate and when, what did for your warm-up, how you felt, how you performed, what the conditions were, how your bike felt, etc. All that info will help you refine your routine and give you a record of what worked in different scenarios.
Bottom line, have a plan. I you have a plan and know you have covered all your bases, that is one less thing to worry about! -Serena
Start macro. Look at the race week (or weeks) as a whole. Are there practices leading up to race day? Are you racing multiple events? Plan for each day, noting specific times for packet pickup, course walks, practice, qualifying, and race. Make notes on when you want to wake up, eat, warm-up, and recover each day.
Race week routines are different for each race, because sometimes I will have two or three races and qualifying. It’s not just building up to one day, but multiple. No matter how busy a race week can get, I’ve found it’s best for me to work in time each day to pedal. When I keep riding, I feel the most comfortable on my bike heading into the race which makes me more at ease in the start gate. -Dani
Once you know your start time, usually the day before the race, get organized and write down a detailed race-day plan.
I make sure everything is ready to go the night before; bike is ready, number plate/timing chip attached, direction to the race start saved on my phone, bottles mixed, and nutrition laid out. I will make a plan for race day, working backwards from race start time:
- Race starts
- Call ups / line up - gel on the line
- Warm up - 1 bottle hydration
- Arrive at venue (have a snack, depending on duration drive)
- Head to the venue
- Eat breakfast
- Stretch/wake up slowly (I hate to feel rushed on race morning)
- Wake up
Many factors can affect your routine: timing of the race, weather, duration or discipline. -Serena
Being able to adapt your routine to different situations comes with experience and the only way to gain experience is to try. It’s important not to get so wrapped up in a specific routine that you get thrown off if something doesn’t go how you imagined. Know what aspects of your routine must happen (non-negotiables) and what you can do without if you need to alter your routine in the moment.
I don’t have a strict routine that I follow, but my main goal every race is to prepare, stretch, and eat healthy foods the best I can in the given environment. -Riley
Being flexible also means listening to your body and knowing when you need to change your routine. Maybe that means cutting a practice short or opting for meditation and yoga instead of a ride.
“I like to live and plan my life like a month at a time (especially now because who knows what will change with the current situation). From that I plan a training a week at a time. I try to look at what’s coming up, analyze what I need to work on, and I listen to my body most importantly!” -Dani