How to Plan Your Running Race Schedule

You’re looking and you’re trying to figure out what races am I going to do this year? How am I going to plan them out? When should I do them? How many should I do?

You’re looking and you’re trying to figure out what races am I going to do this year? How am I going to plan them out? When should I do them? How many should I do? These are all the questions coming through your mind as you’re trying to figure out how to plan your race schedule. So, I’m going to give you my best tips on how to do that today.

Since I know you’re here to optimize your race schedule I know you’re serious about running. So, you’re going to want to hit that subscribe button to stick around with me for future videos of Runner’s High, and so you can go check out the backlog. I’ve got a couple of years of videos that are up, as well as numerous interviews with very awesome athletes ranging from amateurs to Olympians on the Smart Athlete Podcast, the other show I do here on this channel.

Anyway. So, when we’re trying to think about how do I plan my race schedule, really, you have to think about what are your goals for the race season. Now, my goals in particular right now, I ran when I was 12, I ran through college, after college, I transitioned to triathlon trying to get my professional license, left triathlon, and most recently, I’ve come back to the 10K. So, there’s no way I could try to go best 10k and then also, do 70.3, half Ironman kind of triathlon, they’re objectives that don’t work. So, you have to be clear on what’s your objective. And that’s how you’re going to plan your race training schedule.

So, as an example, for me, I want to do a 10K, and I want to hit my fastest times. Well, it’s been a while since I’ve done that. So, then I’ve got to put that go through my training schedule. But it’s important to race because I have to get prepared mentally, to be able to hit that fastest time. And I’m probably not going to jump just straight into a 10K. The extenuating circumstances around this are a couple things. Number one, the peak of your fitness, you can only sustain that for maybe 12 weeks, that last training block that’s going to get you to the absolute peak, 12, maybe 16 weeks, about as long as you’re going to be able to go. So, that’s the time you’re going to want to try to fit in your races.

You also need to recover. So, how many races can you do and still recover? That’s a little bit individual. Now, I know from my running career, when we were racing all the time in college, I mean, we would race 25 races a year, and that’s in nine months. So, not that many weeks off, I was very injury prone. So, I don’t want to go back to that situation. So, if you are injury prone, don’t race every weekend. You would take something more like me and say, I have 12 weeks, that means I can race, you know, four to six times depending on where it falls. Now again, we’ll continue with my 10K example because it’s kind of in the middle, right? You can find 5K’s, you can do the half marathon, you can even do Ironman, half Ironman, whatever it is you want to do, but the same methodology is going to apply.

So, with the 10K, what I’ve done is say my first race back in two years was a four mile run. I’ll link to that at the end of this video where I talk about that race, how I came back, what I did in particular for actually racing and setting up paces. But I didn’t want to go out straight 10K because I’m not really prepared to race a full 10K yet, mentally, physically, so it’s easier to break in with a shorter distance. And then my upcoming race, I’m going to do something fun, like a cross country style race, again, four-ish miles. That’s actually how they advertise it. And I’ll build up. If I can find an 8K, which is five miles, I’ll do that, and then go to the 10K And then eventually, have that peak 10K performance at a later date.

Right now I’m breaking in my brain to get back to racing because there’s something different about maintaining a high pace over a period of time, compared to doing that same pace in intervals where you get breaks. Whether it’s a walk or a jog break. When you get breaks, it’s just a little bit different. So, you want to make sure you have several iterations stepping up in distance toward your race, to let your brain adjust, to get that mental toughness going on, so that you can take full advantage of all of the physical abilities that you’ve built up over your season.

What I do in particular, and I like to do this because it’s like tapering without tapering. If you don’t know what tapering is, the short version is you cut down your mileage a ton so you can recover and hit your absolute peak. You don’t want to do that all the time. Because then you’re unable to continue your physical adaptations to get faster. There’s a rebuilding period. You waste time basically.

So, what I do instead is try to plan races around rest week. I currently run on a two-one schedule, which is I workout hard for two weeks and I recover for one week. So, it’s a three week block. What I like to do is try to find a race that starts at the either end of race rest week or the beginning of week one. That way, I can work out hard for two weeks, recover and then race as soon as I’m as fresh as I’m going to be in a normal cycle.

It’s not the same as the taper, but you still get a nice hard workout in, a nice hard race in without increasing injury risk. And being as you know, recovered you are, you’re going to be able to hit faster times. And then again, working on that mental fitness, being able to go hard and feel good while you’re doing it, there’s a nice component to that. So, if you’re trying to fit these races in, in that 12 week block, where it’s just simply, this is the fastest period of time, you only got, you know, if you’re on a three week schedule like I am, you’ve got maybe four shots at it without the taper.

Now, what I’m doing means I’m going to race more often, because I’m still in base building at this point. I’m racing for fun, and partly as a workout. But I’m also not going to be racing as often. So, maybe I’m racing once a month. And you can do that in the months leading up to, you know, that build and then final race phase, to just get some reps in, you know, get some reps in. And the point of that is to lower the stress and the nerves that come along with going out for a race.

Also, to plan and prepare your warm up, and practice that warm up before a race. You’ll find that the more you race, the more you get into a rhythm and a routine, the lower those nerves should be. So, that yeah, you can be a little bit nervous, which is good. There’s this excitation of the brain where it’s going to help you perform at peak level, but you keep it from overwhelming you.

So, that’s the basics of how to plan a training schedule. You’re going to play in it within your rest week when possible, or at the end of the rest week so that you’re recovered without having to taper. You are going to, you know, do it a few times. If you’re injury prone near that race phase, building towards the end from shorter distance to longer distance. You want to practice that warm up routine in those races, but you can also do races earlier on in the season less frequently, just to get some reps in and have a good time.

If you have any questions more specifically about what you are doing, are they good suggestions, should you do something different, leave them in the comments below, I’d love to answer your specific situation. And if you have any other questions, again, leave them in the comments below, I’d love to make a video just for you. I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.


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