Getting Ready for the Big Event

In preparation for Eye of the Tiger, I asked Siobhan McManus, a fellow yoga and fitness instructor what she does to prepare for big events. She knows a thing or two about this as she's an Ironman, Cross Canada Cyclist, Figure Competitor, 5 time marathon finisher, and has completed countless running races, and sprint, Olympic and half Ironman distance triathlons. See below what she had to say. I would add: go to bed early (by 10 pm at the very latest), abstain from alcohol and don't eat a heavy dinner the night before. I'm going to start my day with a green smoothie as usual and maybe Sioban's power breakfast below. "As a triathlete, yogi, runner, figure competitor and general health nut, I've trained for and completed in some big events. As a personal trainer, yoga instructor, triathlon coach, and fitness leader, I've worked with lots of clients over the last 8 years to help them train for major events. All these events, like the Eye of the Tiger, require preparation and training, a proven event day plan to execute, and post event reflection. Below are a few tips I hope will help you prepare for the Eye of the Tiger:

1)      Practice like you play. Have a plan. Reflect and learn.

Before any major event there is training and lots of it. This is the time to try new things well in advance of the big day. When I trained for Ironman I tried different bikes, shoes, training techniques, training routes, volumes of training, etc. This was the time to experiment with all the variables from heart rate to gear. The purpose of training is to figure out what doesn’t work and most importantly what does. Have you ever shown up to a yoga class with a brand new mat only to discover that it’s super slippery? I have and can speak from experience – it’s not ideal and certainly not ideal on the big day. It’s tempting to try a new technique, new gear, anything new on the big day but that’s really not the place for new. By the time you arrive on your mat for the Eye of the Tiger you want to be executing your proven plan that you developed in your yoga practice leading up to the event. Race day is all about execution – save the new ideas to test drive in training. Reflect on the process and learn from your failures and successes.

2)      Have a Nutrition and Hydration Plan.

Whether it’s a marathon or a 4 hour yoga practice have a good nutrition plan in place for both before, during, and after the event. I eat the same breakfast  before every major event: steel cut oats, berries, and eggs. I do this because it always works, fuels me with the balance of slow digesting carbs, proteins, and fats, and it never irritates my stomach. I have a few of these ‘go to’ meals for pre-event, during the event (if it’s going to be longer than 1.5 hours I’ll eat during the event), and post event for recovery. I also consider hydration before during and after. You want to ensure you are well hydrated generally but, especially leading up to your big day. Before Ironman I drank water like it was running away from me the week leading up to the event. I knew that I needed to go in hydrated and that relying on the big day wasn't enough. If your event is longer than an hour and a half it’s a good idea to have some nutrition to keep you going – the key to event nutrition is good quality sustainable sugars and electrolytes that are easily digested so your body can keep moving and not waste too much energy on digestion. Liquid nutrition is ideal as it easily digested and goes into the blood stream (coconut water, juices, natural sports drinks). One of my personal favorites is very simple to make and not chemical laden – shake up a couple table spoons of maple syrup, a splash of apple juice, and a pinch of salt – boom- nutrition rich energy drink. You probably won’t want to eat during yoga the way you would need to take in calories during an Ironman, but a little glucose goes a long way to keep you moving. Plan a recovery meal with a balance of nutrient dense protein (fish, low fat dairy, plant based protein), carbohydrate (fruits, whole unprocessed grains) and healthy fats (avocados, nuts, fish oils). Also ensure that you drink lots of water. Your urine should be near clear or a very pale yellow if you’re properly hydrated.

3)      Rest is Important.

Rest in the final days or week leading up to your event is important. Too often people forget that the ability to build fitness or capacity is lost approximately three weeks before the big day. Rest is still the hardest thing to wrap my head around. We don’t want to pre-race our event. Marathoners take anywhere from 2-4 weeks to ‘taper’. Tapering is reducing training volume by up to 80% to allow the body to recover and re-energize before the big day. You don’t want to go into your event tired from over training. You should feel rested and almost antsy with energy on the big day so can give it all you've got. Throwing in one last killer training session right before your event can actually hinder performance; your body needs time to recover. Days before the event take yourself through a light, shorter, gentle practice to prepare you mentally and keep your body limber but save the big energy expenditure, both mental and physical, for your big day. You've come this far – don’t overdue it too close to the big event. You could risk hindered performance or even worse, injury. Wear supportive footwear leading up to the event and don’t do anything brand new physically (ie don’t go on a big hike for the first time in a while – your body isn't used to this activity and you will likely have muscle  soreness and fatigue).

4)      Mistakes I've made – learn vicariously if you can!

I've learned through experience too many times to count. Here are a few funny (and not so funny) stories I can share in hope that you can learn from me and not experience this yourself: 1) I tried mountain biking for the first time 5 weeks before road cycling across Canada – I broke my big toe knuckle and it hurt so much during my trek across Canada – stupid and easily avoided. 2) I tried a new sports gel during a triathlon and my stomach was not impressed. I became intimately familiar with the race port-a-john and added 20 minutes to my time. Dumb mistake and entirely avoidable. 3) I peaked too early before a Figure competition. It was painful and I was utterly exhausted for weeks leading up to and on the day of the show. Again avoidable and not a fun experience. 4) I didn't rest properly, waited too long to get to my chiropractor and RMT, and waited too long to replace my running shoes before an Olympic triathlon. I had back pain on the swim, discomfort on the bike, and blistered the bottoms of my feet on the run. Again, completely preventable and unnecessary suffering.  

I wish you all a fantastic ‘Eye of the Tiger’ practice, the big event, the marathon of yoga. A final piece of advice: the journey is always the best part."

Sioban Mcmanus is a certified Personal Trainer, Yoga Instructor, Pilates instructor, NCCP Level 1 Triathlon Coach, Aquatics Fitness Instructor and a marathoner, triathlete, Ironman, Yogi, and figure competitor.Check out her classes at www.oranjdance.com

She is also co-chair of a not for profit organization Gennext -www.gennextkelowna.com and works full time in a commercial sales role.

sioban