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061: Are You Racing Too Much?

Uncategorized Nov 08, 2018

Do you have that friend who seems to run a race every single weekend?  In this episode, we look into the good and the bad of constant racing. With a background in high school racing, Kevin has so many races in his rear view mirror, he cannot count.  On the other hand, Angie came into running as an adult, and naturally has fewer races to reflect on. She does however have several lined up through the next three months.

First, let’s establish that racing is great for many reasons, and this show is definitely not bashing racing.  It is in the racing environment that I think you can connect most deeply with the running community. A race can provide a constant motivator to get out the door.  A race is a way to test your body and mind in a way that simply cannot happen in a workout. Finally, nothing prepares you for a race quite like running a race. Having the experience helps remove some of the worry that comes from being in an unknown situation.  

In line with racing as a way to prep for more racing, is the idea of racing as direct training.  Sometimes it is hard to bring the correct level of effort to a workout, but that intensity is easily increased during a race.  It’s easier to hit times when you are surrounded by others, and it helps the mind see all races as a stepping stone to greater achievements.  When a race is designed as a workout, it can easily be done on tired legs, and there is no reason to alter the training to taper for the race, so the overall training cycle is not disrupted.  

Some of my favorite races as workouts include just about all race distances.  The 10k race is a great long tempo run to prep for a marathon or half. The 5k can be a great mental break while grinding through the miles and miles of a marathon program.  Consider running a 5k with a long warmup and cool down to replace a long run occasionally. Finally, the half marathon is a good test race about six to eight weeks before a marathon.  It can also be used as a faster long run in preparation for anything from a 10k to a full marathon.

On the other hand, some people can easily fall victim to over-racing.  This is a very individual issue that includes your motivation for racing in the first place.  If you are focused on the time result of a race week after week, you will eventually be burnt out.  The issue is similar to our previous discussion on motivational speeches - you can only dig super deep emotionally and physically so often.  You mind and body both need time to recover and one week may not be enough.

Signs that you may be overdoing it include a plateau in race times or a general loss of fun.  Another issue with over-racing is that certain aspects of training can disappear. When you have a general plan of weekly long runs, strength days, speed days, and recovery days, racing can upset the balance.  Real life runners understand that running is not the only event to fit into a day. In a life already hectic with work, transporting kids, helping with homework, and planning dinner, constant racing can really upset the balance.  

Ultimately, this all comes back to personal perspective.  Decide why you want to run a particular race and determine if it fits your schedule.  Maybe the next race would be better suited as a training run. Perhaps you should sleep in a take a rest day.  Or maybe you just really enjoy the fun of racing. If that’s you, then lace them up and head out. Enjoy running and someday we might see you on a starting line.  

Resources: 

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