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Pre-Race Warm-Up Drills and Stretches

Take a cue from the pros and don't go into your race cold. "Do this warm-up before the gun goes off to help freshen your legs," says Andrew Kastor, founder and coach of High Sierra Striders running club in Mammoth Lakes, California. It's a smart start to any run; also try it once or twice a week as you train.

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Quad Stretch
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Fuel-Up Checklist

Race Tip: Prescreen race-day eats. "Test what to eat on days you do long runs," says Jenna Bell, PhD, RD, coauthor of Energy to Burn.

Follow Bell's Fuel-Up Checklist:
1. Drink 14 to 20 ounces of fluid two to three hours before the race, then check your urine. The lighter it is, the more hydrated you are (a lemonade shade is just right).
2. Eat something with 0.9 grams of carbs per pound of body weight two to three hours before the race (for a 140-pound woman, that's 126 grams). Choose a high-carb, low-fiber food with a little protein that is easy to digest, like a banana and a plain bagel with peanut butter, and wash it down with a cup of OJ.
3. Top it off right before the start with a sports drink or an energy gel.

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What to Do 45 to 55 Minutes Pre-Race

Jog slowly for about 15 minutes and then perform Kastor's favorite active isolated stretches in the following order.

Hamstring Stretch
Lie faceup on ground with left knee bent and left foot flat, right leg extended. Loop yoga strap or towel around sole of right foot and hold one end of strap in each hand. (If you're empty-handed on race day, simply grasp back of right thigh.) Keeping resistance in strap, gently lift leg as high as you can. Once you reach top of stretch, increase tension on strap slightly and pull leg a little bit higher; lower. Do 10 reps without pausing; switch sides, repeat.

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Calf Stretch

Sit on ground with legs together and extended in front of you, back tall. Loop yoga strap or towel around sole of left foot and hold one end of strap in each hand. (No strap? Do the stretch without one; simply flex left foot.) Keeping resistance in strap, flex left foot and gently pull toes toward you; release. Do 10 reps without pausing; switch sides and repeat.

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Quad Stretch

Lie on left side on ground with hips stacked, right knee bent so foot is behind you and left arm extended under head. Reach right hand behind you to grasp right shin, ankle, or forefoot and gently pull right foot toward butt as far as possible; bring right knee forward to start position. Do 10 reps without pausing; switch sides and repeat.

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What to Do 10 Minutes Pre-Race

Do Andrew Kastor's warm-up drills.

Deena's Skip
Start with feet together, arms by sides. Shuffle to right with right leg so that legs are wider than shoulder-width apart as you swing both arms loosely out to sides to just above shoulder level.

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Shuffle left leg over to meet right as you swing arms down, then cross them at chest. Continue shuffling to right for 30 seconds. Switch directions; repeat. (Marathon star Deena, coach Kastor's wife, does this namesake skip.)

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B Skip

Start with feet together, arms bent by sides. Hop straight up, lifting left knee toward chest, then extend left leg in front of you to stride forward and land with left foot directly under hips. Alternate legs for 30 seconds. (Be like Olympic marathoner Ryan Hall and do it to the rhythm of "New York, New York.")

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Butt Kicks

Just as the name indicates, jog while kicking heels up toward your derriere. Continue for 30 seconds, starting slow and finishing fast.

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Run Backward

Literally. Bring left heel up toward butt, then extend leg behind you and lower foot; switch legs and repeat, swinging arms. Continue for 30 seconds.

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What to Do 5 Minutes Pre-Race

Do four to six 30-second strides: bursts in which you gradually accelerate to a near sprint. Then lose the jitters and enjoy the ride!

Race Tip: Refuel fast. "Have a carb and protein snack, like a strawberry yogurt smoothie, within 30 minutes post-race to help repair muscles," Bell says.

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, July/August 2010.

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