Training through Racing
Photo credit – Delly Carr
As we head into March and spring is on its way, we’re now getting dangerously close to race season with many of us getting down to some early racing later this month. Once the season kicks off, depending on what discipline and distances you race across, we can often find ourselves busy competing on a number of consecutive weekends with clear training weeks few and far between. Whilst this can obviously be a lot of fun, it’s a common complaint that by the end of April, many of us who have trained hard over winter and made some good gains find that their fitness tails off and form disappears, leading to the obvious question – What’s happened??!
With a demanding race schedule it can be difficult to continue effective training and maintain our path of progression, it’s a plate-spinning act that has lots of factors to consider – how quickly do I generally recover, what is my current level of fitness, what is the extent of your race programme, when is your A-race for the season? I speak with many athletes who believe they’ve burnt themselves out or over-trained during the winter which has led to the decline but usually this isn’t the case and it’s much simpler than that when we take a step back and look at the cycle.
Most often a dip in form can actually be attributed to a de-training cycle that can kick in once race season begins. This sounds odd to a lot of people given that they are regularly out racing and putting in sustained intense efforts but if we take a closer look at the prep and recovery cycle for a race, things begin to make more sense.
Say you’ve got a typical weekend race on a Sunday morning. Most likely you’ll have an easy day or rest day on the Friday to prepare; Saturday will be a light effort to get the blood pumping and muscles firing but nothing too intense; Sunday we race and put in a good effort for 2-3hrs; Monday is a rest and recovery day before getting back to some training on Tuesday assuming there are no lingering niggles or injuries. So lets consider that again, over the course of 4 days, you have done one solid day of training, the others have all been easy/rest days. If you had a race the next weekend and followed the pattern then you’ve only 3 days to train, but likely not too hard as you don’t want to sustain injuries or illness during that time. As you can now see, the slump is actually a result of a drop in adequate training stimulus to sustain and build upon the efforts of winter. Mid-week training therefore takes on a whole new level of importance in this case. Clearly there are additional personal factors to be taken into account also, but analysing our racing and training routine is a quick way to identify and potential opportunities for de-training.
Your ability to recover and be ready to go again is always a personal thing, but it does have a significant potential impact on the quality of your training load over the following week and summarily over the course of the season too, so it really is worth looking at the race schedule and thinking about your training load too. Whilst we’ve all got ‘that mate’ who is usually annoyingly under-trained yet somehow manages to race themselves fit, they’re generally those lucky enough to have a naturally quick recovery cycle and can go again sooner than the rest of us, so don’t worry about them and control the things you can control. One of our favourite sayings at Positive Kinetics is “Consistency is King”, which is never more true than when talking about your training if you want to get racing results.
There’s lots to think about off the back of this, but keep your targets clear in your head and you’ll be able to race your way through the minefield of the season without too much de-training, leading to a happier racing experience.