How frequently can I race? 6 tips for setting up your race calendar

A woman in a blue shirt is posing for a photo.

img_0619-e1487797113298-768x1024-8879094There can be no doubt about it: Racing is fun. And, like most things we enjoy: we want to do it. A. Lot.

But, as with all things in life, moderation can be important. Too much racing can wind up being not much fun at all, leading to lackluster performance, burnout, and even injury. None of those scenarios are much fun.

This post offers 6 suggestions to help you set up your ideal race calendar as it relates to the frequency of racing.

1. Racing is hard work. 

If you are going to truly race an event, then that day is going to be hard work–whether it’s a high priority race or not. As such, racing demands at least some measure of recovery time, and failure to incorporate this recovery can lead to issues later down the line.

We don’t believe in “training” races – or the idea that you are just going to enter a race and take it easy. For 99% of the athletes we coach, that never happens. The gun goes off, and they start like they were shot out of a cannon. So, if you put a race on your calendar, expect to go hard and factor that in to the impact it will have in the weeks prior to and following the race date. 

2. Racing well requires training. 

Frequent racing leaves little to no time for training. If you only leave 3-4 weeks between races, there is limited opportunity to fully recover and then rebuild in training. Chances are you will sacrifice one or the other – or both – if there is not adequate time between races. 

We take a periodized approach to training, and as such, you need to identify what your key race is – the one you care the most about. Then, you build around that – both in terms of training and appropriate prep races. 

3. Race length and type. 

The duration of time between races is partially dependent upon the type of race. For example, a marathon will demand a longer taper and more recovery than a 10k, similarly with the distinctions between an iron distance triathlon and a half-iron distance tri.

img_0843-1024x768-79733484. Race Goals. 

Another important determinant in how often you should race includes your goals for a given race. If you are heading into the most important race of your season, you do not want to have races that are too close before or after the race. Additionally, you may train through B or C priority races – but for an A priority race, you will want a proper peak period – and an extended recovery period. 

5. Personal history. 

Each athlete has an individual level of tolerance for the duration and frequency of racing. If you are prone to injury, or have a history of lackluster performance or burnout from frequent racing, then use that as a guide to help you determine how much is enough. The opposite is also true – some athletes respond well to racing, and can use lower priority races as key training for their high priority races.

The important thing here is to be honest and realistic about the type of athlete you are, and the history you have. For those athletes without a long racing history, we recommend a cautious approach.

6. Your Race Season is Yours

Coach John Jenkins coming in to the finish line at Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 2014.

Remember, you have to do the races, not your friends, your family members, your coach, or those people in the internet. Select the races that will allow you to challenge your limits, and will help you achieve the goals you set for yourself. But, also select those races that put a little fire in your belly, excite you, and yes, scare you a little. As they say: if your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough! 

Developing a race calendar is exciting – as it offers exciting possibilities for the year that lies ahead. Frequency of racing is only one consideration. Others include:

Happy Racing! 

How frequently can I race? 6 tips for setting up your race calendar
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