Should you Race All Year?

If you're like me, you're running all year round, you're training all year round. And I know you're getting those emails, you're seeing the fliers. Maybe you're getting mailers in the mail. There's always a race to do.
Should you Race All Year?


If you're like me, you're running all year round, you're training all year round. And I know you're getting those emails, you're seeing the fliers. Maybe you're getting mailers in the mail. There's always a race to do. There's always a new race around the corner. Somebody's trying to get you to do something and you have the temptation to race year round. But the question you should ask yourself is, should I race all year?

If you haven't been with me here before, I'm Jesse Funk, this is a show I call Runner's High when we talk about everything running every Tuesday and Thursday, so hit that subscribe button, stick around for more episodes, but we want to talk about racing, right?

As I said in the intro, there's always an opportunity to race. There's another charity coming up, there's a holiday run, there's something happening all year, and it really just depends on how you want to schedule your particular training run. Your particular season as to when the your peak of your speed should be.

The thing you want to remember is that with our training schedules, we're actually thinking about breaking the year up into different blocks. And if you remember, we begin our training schedule with base training, so that's largely going to be a period of just doing long, slow miles, which isn't really going to be a great time for some very, very fast times.

So if you come to it from the position of I want to run my fastest race ever every single time, then the idea of racing all year should be out because number one you're not going to meet your expectation. But number two, you're probably actually setting yourself up for failure for getting to that peak because of where we start in that base training.

The idea within basic training is that we're building mileage or building our base of endurance before we add our speed component. And generally, the generally accepted advice is that you're going to either build mileage or build speed.

Now you can do both at the same time. But that comes with a huge asterisk. Ok, so you have to consider that when you're building mileage or you're building speed, it's fatigue, right? It's a different kind of fatigue. It builds your muscles or breaks your muscles down in different ways and works on different types of fitness. So when we focus on one or the other, it's easier to kind of deal with the particular fatigue load.

If you're doing both at the same time, it comes the risk of overload and that's where it becomes an issue.

If you want to do a deep dive on the effects of that overload and overtraining and the things that can go wrong when you do it wrong, you should check out my conversation I had with former pro triathlete Alex Coates.

I'll link to the episode I did with her here at the end of this video. To stick around for that, you want to click on that, but that's another show I do on this channel. So if you didn't already have a reason to subscribe, please, please do subscribe. Stick around with me.

But when you try to build both, that's the position of it's easier to overload yourself. And when you get into this place of overtraining, then it becomes harder and harder to recover. You need more and more time and time off to recover. Ideally, you find yourself in a place of I work hard, I recover. And then so your fitness goes up, it goes down because you're working hard, you recover and it goes back up, and it's slightly better than it was before.

By sorting things out into, Hey, I'm going to only build miles or I'm only going to build speed, then you're able to control that load. But what does this have to do with racing?

Well, when you are taking those miles in that base building period and saying, Hey, let's just do mile building, right? But then also every other weekend, I'm going to go run a hard 5k or hard 10k for the right individual who's highly trained and been at it for years it may be less of an issue if they've got plenty of recovery time.

But for most people, I would say that are here, you watching this with me is probably going to be too much, and you're going to have the potential of overloading yourself and not building up enough miles.

The consequence of that is that if you've got to take time off, you're no longer able to be consistent and you've wasted your time. Basically, you set yourself back. That doesn't mean you have to start from square one, but when you have to take extra time off because of injury or overload, which is essentially what that's going to result in, then you are not going to get the maximal speed out of yourself.

So if you come at it from a place of I want to be fast all year and I want to be the fastest then it's not going to work, but there is a way to incorporate races into more of your year. And also, it not be too much of an issue.

And that method really has to do with first" personal expectations, right?

As I said, it's going to be very, very difficult, nigh impossible if you're doing it correctly to have your fastest times ever all year round. It's just it's just not going to happen. This actually, in a microcosm kind of happened with me during one spring track season when I was in college.

Every week I was PR'ing and it doesn't matter what the event was up until conference when everything just blew up. I mentioned this to another person I talked to on the Smart Athlete Podcast Scott Johnston, and he mentioned that when that happens, when you're PR ing too much or peaking too fast. Burnout is pretty high both physically and mentally and when my coach should have done is gone back to base miles.

So it's a very, very rare situation that you're going to even have that and that was over a three month period, let alone doing it all year. So if you come at it with number one, the mental expectation that, hey, this is just for fun, we're going to go out and just have a good time. It's probably going to suck because you don't have that speed on, then it's fine. But more importantly, you have to think about what period am I in? What pace am I going to try to go? And where does that fit in with my overall training schedule?

So let's go back to that base period where again, you really don't have that speed on. You're just doing mileage. You have to think about how do these miles fit into the schedule I'm already doing. And then probably tune it down a little bit.

So as an example, we were building in for me in particular, I'd built up to about 40 miles, nothing terribly high as far as the larger running community is concerned. But I run four days a week, bike one day and swim one day still maintain some cross-training.

For me, if it's base training, I'm finally hit this 35, 40 mile, you know, peak we're looking for and I want to go race, which I did this. I know, hey, if I'm going to go put in, let's say, a four mile race, I did that back in the Fourth of July. It's another video I did for the 4th of July race report. I can't link to all of them at the end of this video, but we'll see what sports sport I end up including here. If I'm going to go run 4 Miles, I know, hey, that's not just a four mile day for me, that's an eight mile day, two miles of warm up, four miles a race, two miles to cool down and then some intensity in there, obviously, because I'm racing. It's not going to be a race race. So much is a tempo, so like a middling kind of speed. But because of that, it added intensity. You have to think about the fatigue and then pull back a little bit.

So normally at that point, say, I'm racing on Saturday, that's eight miles. Normally I take Saturdays off. Sundays are my long run days and I'm doing 12 to 13 miles on that day.

So I would say OK, instead of saying I did eight miles on Saturday, which is normally off and then like 12 miles on Sunday. If I want to make the same mileage, OK, then I'm going to do four miles on Sunday to get eight and four is 12. Ok.

No, don't do that because that added fatigue from the intensity of the race. It may actually be good to get out and still do something. But for me, maybe it would be go out and run a mile or two miles. Not the whole thing, not the whole regular mileage. Because again, you don't want to overload yourself.

As you move into the build phase, which is where you're starting getting like tempo work a little bit faster stuff, but you're not doing that really, really like high intensity, fast sprint kind of stuff to get you ready for your very fastest races. Races are going to be a lot easier to incorporate into your schedule. But again, temper expectations. You could almost use them as a workout during the build phase, where if again, I'll use me as an example because I don't know what your schedule looks like, say I have a tempo run scheduled and I need to do whatever three miles, six miles.

You know, I'm kind of working on the 10k right now. That's kind of my specialty at the moment. I want to get ready for that. So we want to do a 10k tempo run. I can go to a race and do that, but that's what the tempering expectations comes in because you have to get to the race and be OK. Not going as hard as you can be, just sticking to that tempo pace.

So if you're going to get some encouragement from being around other people, being in that race environment and also have the ability to hold yourself back to do that tempo properly and not let yourself, you know, cheat, get ahead of it and say, Oh, that's tempo, let's tempo, right? So for me, maybe like six ish minute miles would be tempo, maybe slightly faster. Now I'm starting to get a little bit of shape, but maybe I can run, say, five forty five pace or something. That's where my fitness is. If I allow myself to lie and say, Oh, five, forty five, I can mean that's tempo. You're doing yourself a disservice because you're not really using that race as a workout, you're using it as a race.

Now it's OK to do that, but you need to adjust the rest of your schedule to reflect that.

So you have to decide ahead of time. Hey, is this a race or is this a glorified tempo workout during the build phase? But that's a great way to start incorporating some of that. Get those pre-race jitters under control. The more you race, the easier it's going to be and simply just get used to going hard for that, you know that distance again.

So those are the things you want to consider and why I would say don't race all year round. Definitely take some time off from where you're A race is, that big race, and then back to base building. That's probably going to be a period of at least three to four months where you're probably not racing, especially if you race a lot. It'll be good in your brain to to take a break, you know, get back, chill, do other things. That's always important as well.

All those links to those various conversations and things here on the screen, I'll see if I can link three videos. I can't remember Alex Coates, Scott Johnston and then my race report from July, my first race back in like two years. I'll see if I can get those all on the screen and of course, the big Solpri circle. Subscribe, thinking if you're not already subscribed, I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runner's High.

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