Solid physical preparation and organisation is key with an event like the Ben Nevis Braveheart. Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist, Simon Mesner from Super Fit UK, details important steps that should be taken during the 10 days prior to the triathlon…

Preparation – 10 days to the Braveheart

By now you should have the miles in your arms and legs with all your previous training.  This period is the time to taper your training gradually down to light exercise.  This allows your musculoskeletal system to finish adjusting in response to your training.

Vigorous exercise causes micro damage to muscles.  This is a normal process but it takes a few days to be repaired by the body.  It is thought to be the reason why athletes experience delayed onset muscle soreness after novel or unaccustomed exercise.  Thus, training hard a few days before an event could give you pain and stiffness that would affect your performance.  Tapering can also allow your mind to relax as you are no longer concentrating on exercising hard for long periods.  A suggested tapering programme involves performing the same type of exercise that you were engaging in during your training but at a reduced intensity/speed and reducing durations.

Continue to eat healthily during this period.  A healthy athletic diet is one with plenty of fruit and vegetables with around 50% of the calorific intake made up from carbohydrates, 30% from protein and 20% from fats.

Between 72 to 48 hours before the event, perform a long (at least 2 hours) training session at a reduced intensity of an activity you are accustomed to.  After this last training session eat plenty of carbohydrates (bread, pasta, potatoes etc.) – more than you usually would.  This should give you a carbohydrate ’bounce’ for event day, where depleted glycogen stores are filled by up to 25% more than previously.

Keep yourself well hydrated.  To see if you are well hydrated, check the colour of your urine.  It should be light or clear.

Over the last 48 hours try a light, short exercise session and stretching to keep you ticking over, but do not over exert yourself.  The night before continue to eat healthily as above.

Event preparation – check list

With over a week to go, produce a check list for the event.  Work through what equipment you’ll need to take including clothes (exercise specific and other), mechanical kit and spares, event food and drink, travel plans, course specifics and paperwork etc.  Plan for multiple eventualities such as different types of weather (wet weather clothing to keep you dry and warm but also sunscreen and sunglasses if it is bright) or travel hold ups.  Work out a plan B for travelling to the event for example if you think there could be an issue or are travelling from far afield.

Event day preparation

Give yourself plenty of time between waking and the start of the event.  You will need to wake up properly, eat and dress etc.  You don’t want to be rushing through this period.  Event day breakfast can be lighter but calorific and something you know sits well with you.  E.g. toast and jam with raisins and a banana plus tea or water.  Eating can stimulate your bowel so I’d suggest eating at least an hour before the event.

Dress for the weather at the start but prepare for all eventualities.  Don’t rely on the weather staying as it is at the beginning of the event, especially in the Fort William location.

Start warming up around 20 minutes before the event start.  Warm up should include getting warm – raising the temperature of your limbs, which can be done by general movement e.g. running on the spot; small star jumps, jigging about; stretching – intersperse stretches with general movement – stretching pre-event should be short, sharp stretches rather than long hold stretches; move through range – this may well happen by performing the above but move your joints through range particularly your spine – rotate it, bend it, arch it and side bend it.

During event advice

If the above advice is followed you should have enough fuel as your base but top this up with glucose gels (only take these if you are used to taking them), jelly babies or similar sweets and sports drinks (again only drink these if you are used to drinking them).  Keep hydrated, drinking small amounts regularly.  Focus on the event and your time if important to you but also enjoy the event and the scenery (where safe to do so!).

Post event advice

Although cooling down maybe the last thing on your mind post event, it can make you feel a lot more comfortable the next day.  Cooling down is the reverse of warm up and involves the same elements – keep moving, move through range and stretch.  This time however hold the stretches for 30-40 seconds.  Take in some food and fluid before drinking any alcohol.  Do celebrate your feat but take a little time to make sure you can revel more comfortably!

Enjoy the event, it is a great accomplishment and one to be proud of.

Simon Mesner

BSc. (Hons) KCL, MSc. (Merit) Keele, Cert PS Manc Met, MCSP

Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist & Personal Fitness, Health & Wellbeing Case Manager