After putting in hours (and hours, and hours, and hours) of intense physical training – not to mention just as much mental legwork – it’s safe to say your mind is probably in a pretty crazy place by the time your goal race finally rolls around. So, the last thing you need to worry about in the days leading up to the big one is what to wear on race day.
Heed this advice from six runners, cyclists, and triathletes who know the drill and are here to save you from any last-minute “What should I wear on race day?” debates.
1. Start tracking the weather early – but not too early
It’s very, very, very tempting to start obsessing over the potential race weather as soon as it appears in the 10-day forecast. But weather is very subject to change, so try not to freak out if you see sleet, wind, and sideways rain in the forecast when you’re still more than a week out.
“Start looking at the weather a week in advance, and plan to have all your outfit options washed and ready to go,” says Abbe Lewis Baker, a runner from New York City. “Race day weather is always tricky, so it’s better to be overly prepared. There’s nothing worse than waking up and scrambling to find something you didn’t plan for.”
2. Seriously consider the whole “nothing new on race day” rule
It can be tempting to pick up a fun new outfit or fresh pair of shoes at the race expo the day before you’re set to run – but resist. (Or save your new goods for a post-race treat.)
There’s a reason athletes say to avoid throwing new clothes or gear into the mix on race day: because you never know exactly how it will work for you (or where it might chafe).
“I always try to do at least one long run in my outfit to make sure it feels comfortable for the long haul, and that nothing rides up or gets weird,” says Lauren Barnfield of Chicago, IL.
And when it comes to ruling out new things, apply that to detergent and cleaning products, too.
“As someone with sensitive skin, mixing my tried-and-true outfit with a new detergent has led to seriously unpleasant surprises,” says runner Carly Voorhees. “I don’t generally have superstitions, but I am obsessive about this for every single race – the detergent must stay the same!”
3. Throw in something lucky
Anoush Arakelian, a Boston Qualifying runner from Boston, MA, swears by her lucky underwear, socks, headband, and sports bra.
“When it works the first race, you keep it,” she says. “Anytime it disappoints you, swap it out. That’s my rule. And if something doesn’t work, you can totally blame your bad race on it. It’s science.”
4. Don’t forget your start line layers
The weather may be a flawless 50 degrees by the time you start running, but it’s likely to be hovering around freezing at the start, particularly if you’re doing an early race that’ll have you lining up before the sun rises.
When you’re planning your outfit, don’t forget to add a zip-up sweatshirt, hat, gloves, and easy-to-remove pair of pants into the mix. (And good news: Many race organizations donate any clothes that are tossed at the start line. In 2014, New York Road Runners broke its own record by donating a whopping 26 tons of discarded clothing from the New York City Marathon start line to Goodwill.)
Remember, once you get moving, you’re going to warm up significantly, so plan your final outfit for your start and finish times, not the time you’ll be waiting around for the porta-potty.
5. It’s OK to want to look good!
There are two camps of athletes: those who care how they look on the course and those who don’t. And whichever one you fall into is fine!
“I choose my gear by functionality first and style second,” says Paris-based runner and cyclist Chloe Lasseron. “I have a style of shorts, socks, and sports bras that work great and that I feel great in.”
Patti Look, a runner from Brooklyn, NY, suggests planning a few outfits before the race, but going with what you feel best in on race morning.
“I have a bunch of options that are ready to go, but on race day, the actual outfit chooses me,” she says. “If I wake up and think, ‘Today is actually a yellow day, not a purple day,’ I go with it.”
Making sure you can perform your best in your outfit of choice is key – and looking and feeling good is a bonus.
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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.