Seven days have passed, so that only means one thing!! It's Coach Tip Tuesday!!
This week’s tip is to race with purpose. With what purpose….that can be left up to you. Looking to execute even splits, steady pacing, stay within heart rate and/or power goals, or to finish the event and live to tell the tale - all of these are valid purposes. But I’m here today to talk about a very specific point that took me a long time to learn personally, and has taken many of the athletes who I’ve worked for over the years a long time to learn.
You cannot, I repeat: CANNOT be in peak race shape every single weekend. You can’t even be in peak race shape every other weekend. Honestly, you can’t be in peak race shape every month. Read this paragraph again, and then read on. :)
Most age-group athletes (that’s the majority of you!!) can be in peak race shape for about 2-3 events per season. Even the pros, who train and race full-time, cannot be be in peak race shape for more than a handful events in a season. When athletes start out racing or come back to it after a break, they often see gains and PRs pretty darn often simply because they are reaping the benefits of being consistently active. However, racing (truly racing at race effort) too often will always, always, always cause burnout, no matter what level of athlete you are.
It is possible to use races as “supported training days”. What does this mean?? This means that you execute the workout with the planned parameters, but in a race setting versus doing the workout on your own. This, my friends, is a skill that is truly tough to master. In my experience, it takes athletes a long time to be able to check their egos at the starting line, turn off the competitive switch, and ignore the “noise” around them in order to do this. Once learned, it is a valuable skill since it means that athletes can use race settings to break up the monotony of their regular training, provides an opportunity to test out a race plan before a goal event, and just have fun without the pressure of a goal that may or may not come to fruition.
Basically, what happens is this: if you learn this skill, you learn to validate yourself on your own performance on a given day, not on how you measure up against others, or even how you measure against your past self. Even once you learn this skill, I still don’t advise racing every weekend unless you truly love that environment and experience and are doing it purely (as in 100%) for fun.
So, my friends. Race with purpose. In a smart training plan, there is no practical need to race every weekend. Plan out a season that makes sense, gives you the best chance of success at the goals that are TRULY important to you, and that allows you to have fun along the way. :)
As always, feel free to contact me about any of this or if you need some tips on how best to structure your season!!