How To Race Yourself Into Shape
Now that you understand the benefits and potential pitfalls of racing yourself into shape, here are some helpful tips for implementing this strategy into your training schedule.
1. Don’t taper for each race.
To ensure that racing yourself into shape doesn’t become just racing each week without progressing toward a bigger goal, you’ll need to shy away from dropping your weekly mileage too much each time you’re set to step on the starting line. Don’t cut the distance of your run the day before the race and consider adding a few miles to the warmup and cooldown to keep your overall mileage high.
2. Don’t try to squeeze everything in.
Keep in mind that a race takes the place of one of your workouts for the week — it’s not an additional workout. It’s not advisable to run a long run, speed workout, tempo run and race in the span of one week. That is simply too much quality work and not enough recovery, even for a well-trained runner. The race should take the place of one of your quality workouts.
However, you need to make sure you don’t replace the same workout each week or you risk not tapping into that energy system. If you skip your long run every week, you’ll be sacrificing aerobic development. Meanwhile, substituting a race for a tempo run is a close approximation, but it isn’t always stressing the same energy system. Mix up the workouts and race distances you run to make sure you’re engaging all of your energy systems.
3. Space out your races.
The biggest mistake runners make when they are trying to race themselves into shape is thinking they need to race every weekend. Not only does racing take its physical and mental toll, but as noted above, you still need time to train. Even when racing yourself into shape, limit competition to no more than once every two weeks — although spacing your races out by three to four weeks would be even better. Remember, it takes 7-10 days to realize the benefits of a workout, so if you race every weekend, it will be difficult to see measurable gains.