18 April 2012

How to be a great supporter

Here's how to cheer your favourite in the Spec-Savers Ironman South Africa on April 22.


They say behind every great man is a great woman; in ultra-distance sport, behind every great athlete is a great supporter. Yet knowing what to do, when as a supporter isn’t always as clear-cut as a 42k training programme. So to help the upcoming Spec-Savers Ironman South Africa cheerleaders be their athlete’s best secret weapon on April 22, Virgin Active's Chantel Rall has compiled a selection of top tips that will get the supporters through the race, pain-free.

In the week before race day:

  • Get to the grocery store a few days before the race as thousands of people will converge on Port Elizabeth and your grocer may be sold out of your favourite snack or athlete’s preparation food.
  • Help your athlete pack all their nutrition into waterproof ziplock bags so nothing will be ruined in case of bad weather during the course.
  • Check the weather forecast and stock-up on sunscreen or get an umbrella. Make a note to pack a change of warm clothing as the temperature may drop as night-fall approaches.
  • Stock-up on liquids for the day and chill in the fridge or freezer.
  • Study the route and plan where you will be station for the best view of the rave. The race consists of three disciplines (swim, run, bike) and most supporters choose a spot where they can see the run and bike leg or somewhere near and aid station where there is entertainment to keep you going. Virgin Active – which will be based at water station 7, corners of Admiralty Road and Marine drive is an ideal spot to watch your athlete. Ensure your athlete gets as much sleep as possible the night before the night before i.e. Thursday, as race-jitters could set in compromising sleep – and performance.
  • Cross-check the items to pack for the athlete (power gels, drinks or snacks rich in carbohydrates) the night before. Do not forget to pack your own drinks and food.
  • Keep any big conversations or announcements for after the race; While you may feel in the mood for chatting the night before, your athlete may not. Be considerate and give them their space to ‘get into the zone’ even if that means quietly in front of the TV.

Race day:

  • Set your alarm before your athlete to ensure they get up when their own alarm goes off. Being flustered getting to the start is not the way to start a successful day
  • Make sure your athlete has a carbo-loaded light breakfast two to three hours before the start of the race. Try low-fibre cereal and fat-free or low-fat milk or yoghurt; oatmeal with a sprinkling of walnuts or toast with a hard-boiled egg.
  • Double check that you have all your items on the checklist with you when leaving for the race and don’t forget your placard.
  • Find a good spot on the course so you can cheer your athlete on – they’ll really appreciate the support and may even perform better for it.
  • As the race spans the full day, you’ll be sitting or standing for long periods of time.  Try and do some stretching exercises in-between to improve your circulation.
  • Consider these:Side stretch: Stand up straight with your feet together, fingers interlaced at chest level. Turn your palms away and raise your arms overhead. Lengthen your arms, torso and legs. Relax your neck and hold for five seconds. Leg muscle stretch:  Starting with your toes, tense and release every muscle up your leg until you get to the groin area. Do this slowly so you feel the pull and release of your calves, thighs and all muscles up and down your legs.
  • Hydrate as often as possible and don’t forget to eat. Standing around and cheering on your athlete can become quite exhausting, leaving you feeling faint and weak if you do not get any sustenance.
  • Remember to have fun! Your athlete is counting on you to keep him or her motivated and being in good spirits might just give them that extra push. Even if you’re feeling tired, your smiling face may be the difference between a 9h59 or 10hrs finishing time.
  • Lastly, have a blanket or something warm for your athlete on-hand when they finish the race. While space blankets are often provided, a familiar tracksuit top or dry towel is sure to be greatly appreciated.

(Reference: Virgin Active)

(Health24, April 2012) 

(Picture: Group of friends cheering on Shutterstock)



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