Race Yourself Into Shape

To race or not to race?…That is the question.

Some of our Athlinks’ members race 1-2 times per year for the local Turkey Trot or for that annual endurance event to raise money for such-and-such charity. Others  of us race a bit more regularly. Some of us have even heard or read about of those individuals who race nearly every weekend (and sometimes two races in the same weekend!). The point is some of us may want to curtail our racing a tad, while others of us could definitely beef up our endurance racing calendar.

Here are some reasons why you should or shouldn’t race more during the year.

We’ve all been there at one time or another – we are utterly and pathetically (in our minds) no where in the shape we’d like to be for the upcoming race season. You have a marathon, tri or long distance obstacle course race coming up in a few months and don’t know how you are going to get your “eye of the tiger” back.

Here’s an idea – race yourself into shape. What do I mean? Simply start entering shorter distance events than your goal race and go for it. But there is a caveat here – you need to have the mental toughness to realize that your times will not be where you want them to be and you have to be okay with that. You will not taper for these races, but incorporate them into your training regimen.

What does this do for you? Well, many of us hate training but enjoy racing. And in a race, most of us give more of an effort than we do in a training workout. So instead of trying to get motivated to do that 12-mile progression run or 4000-meter pool session, jump in a half marathon or an open water swim and get more of a quality “workout” out of it. If you do this every couple of weeks leading up to your goal event, you’ll definitely not be so nervous because of all of the “racing” you have been doing; plus, you’ll have a better indication of your fitness based off of these previous races, which will allow you to raise or lower your racing expectations.

Focus on the Goal Race – Practice More

Here’s when you should perhaps drop some events from your racing calendar. Let’s say you’re in good shape and on track to meeting your time goal for your big event in a couple of months – this is the time to continue training and not race so often. Let’s say you’re trying to run a sub-4 hour marathon for the first time and your training is indicating that you should be right there. You’re anxious and so you decide to sign up for a 5K, a 10K and a couple of half marathons weeks leading up to your marathon. You crush all of these races – PRs for all of them! But come race day you run 4:08. Why? Because you raced too much, too close to your big event. All those months of great training and you were too impatient and needed to show yourself and the world your fitness level. And while you should be happy with new 5K, 10K and Half PRs, your goal was to break 4 hours in the marathon. You simply took your eyes of the prize. Remember if you’re getting anxious and antsy to race this is usually a good sign your body is ready to go – don’t short-change yourself by not having the patience to see the entire training cycle through.

Racing is Your Social Outlet

You care a little about your times, but you really just love the camaraderie of being with your fellow athletes. You love the swag, the challenge, the post-race party, the drive at 4 a.m. to the race (well, maybe not that so much), the cool medal and taking pictures along the course and posting them on social media – you love it all! Then you, my friend, are the perfect candidate for someone who should compete in as many events as you wish. I would caution to try not to race through injuries because that will surely set you back a bit and cause you to miss more races than you desire.

Don’t Be so Self-Conscious

You think you’re too slow, too big or too skinny to be out there in the race and you feel like your pedestrian pace is really embarrassing. You’re missing the point of why the majority of the people are at these events – for personal satisfaction. Believe me when I say that no one is staring at you and wondering why you’re so slow (and I’d guess you’re not as slow as you think). I would say at most events I’ve been a part of that the crowd and athletes are very supportive of all who are in the race. Plus, the more you race, the more you’ll feel comfortable in these events. You’ll start seeing familiar faces and find that you may even have a small competitive streak in you that you didn’t know you had (This time I’m taking down that 80-year-old guy who nipped me at the finish line last week!)

Racing is Becoming a bit Cost Prohibitive

Sure, you like to race, but your kids need to eat, right? Seriously, racing a lot can get expensive and while it may be important to you that you race often, it may not be as important to your family or significant other. They would rather go out for a nice dinner and a movie with you rather than you slapping down 100 bones for your next marathon; or they rather take a getaway weekend with you than taking out that small business loan for your next Ironman event. The point here is that we all have different financial budgets, so just make sure you’re thinking about the others in your life that may be effected by your racing decisions.

Live to Race Another Day

I know you love to race, but you’re injured and the only way to get better is NOT TO RACE. By continually biting the bullet and racing you’re actually cutting short your current season and future racing seasons because you’re not ever trying to heal. Try to look at the big picture. If you enjoy racing so much, don’t you want to be healthy while doing it?While you may wear your pain and injuries as a badge of honor, after a while even you most ardent supporters will start asking why you keep racing when you’re hurt. Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” is quite apropos in this situation – take heed.

So figure out what sort of athlete you are and figure out if you should be toeing the line a bit more or less this upcoming season.

Happy Racing!


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