Most of the runners I know have their own personal pre-race ritual. Be it pasta night, alcohol abstinence, protein shakes, or a tapered running schedule, everyone has their ‘musts’ and ‘must nots’ for the countdown to race day.
Yet among all of the talk of fuelling, resting and stretching, people tend to go silent on one aspect of pre-race practice: should you or shouldn’t you have sex on the night/day/week before a race?
The question of abstinence prior to a big sporting event has been in dispute since ancient times. Plato advised abstinence before a competition, while Pliny the Elder suggested the athletes should continue to partake in sexual practices, saying that they would be ‘revitalised by lovemaking’.
The case for abstinence is based on the principles of pre-event exertion and loss of focus. Basically sex burns calories and causes the mind to wander.
However, a article in this month’s Runner’s World points away from these negative impacts of pre-race copulation.
In fact, recent research indicates no disparity in the VO2 Max of those who had sex 12 hour before a race versus those who abstained completely during the same period. A further study showed no difference between those who abstained for 6 days prior to a race and those who had sex the night before, while a survey by the London Marathon revealed that those who had had sex the night before the race finished on average 5 minutes faster than those who had abstained.
Moreover, it has been shown that the female orgasm can activate the two areas of the brain associated with an analgesic effect – the anterior cingulate cortex and the insula – making it a pretty good recovery tool for those suffering with post workout muscle fatigue.
On top of which, another research article has linked the female orgasm to a reduction in rates of insomnia, helping you get the much needed sleep, essential for proper recovery.
While sex can have a positive effect on your running, it also appears that running can have a positive impact on your sex life, with a positive correlation between endurance on the treadmill and that in the bedroom. Meanwhile, while those who partake in regular exercise are also more likely to have sex more often and reach orgasm more easily.
While I’m not one to take one article as gospel on a subject, as far as this matter is concerned, I’m pretty happy to take Runner’s Worlds word for it!