How To Extend Your Racing Season

If you're buned out from a hard running season, take a short break before resuming your training if you have other races planned. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

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Adding a race or two at the end of your season can be fun, but you have to do it right.

If you compete long enough, there’s going to come a time when you want to extend your racing season or need to maintain your peak beyond your goal race. Perhaps your awesome performance qualified you for another racing opportunity — like a masters or local championship. Maybe you didn’t run so well and you are looking for another opportunity to capitalize on your fitness. Or, as sometimes happens, weather, family or work prevent you from actually running your goal race.

Regardless of the reason, extending a racing season isn’t easy. You need to find the right balance between recovery from the goal race and a lack of training coming off the taper, all while getting in enough workouts to maintain your fitness. It’s no surprise then that many athletes struggle when trying to lengthen a training cycle.

In this article, we’ll show you how to structure your training to keep performing well beyond your goal race. Specifically, we’ll outline some of the important considerations and most common mistakes runners make when trying to extend their peak.

Extending A 5K Or 10K Season

Most runners don’t appreciate how difficult it can be to extend 5k or 10k fitness because of the cumulative training effect of both the race itself and the demanding speed training. Both can take a toll on the body, leaving runners burned out as the season extends. Here are some helpful guidelines to prevent overtraining:

Get Your Mileage Back Up
When we examine the specific demands of long distance running, we clearly see a heavy reliance on aerobic respiration as a primary energy system. For the 5k and 10k, the aerobic contribution is between 88 and 95 percent.

When extending your racing season, you’re already coming off a taper and a short recovery period after the race. Both of these factors result in a significant mileage drop for one to three weeks. Therefore, it is critical that you bring your mileage back up to pre-taper levels to ensure you maximize your aerobic potential. As long as you keep these runs easy, they won’t reduce your ability to recover.

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Don’t skimp on the strength work
If you’re following a training plan that progresses from general to specific, you’ve probably focused primarily on 5K and 10K specific workouts over the last few weeks. That’s perfect training for your goal race. However, it likely means that you’ve neglected tempo and other longer, strength-oriented workouts.

Be sure to include at least one tempo or steady-state effort each week to maintain your strength. Don’t fall into the trap of only doing speed work or race specific workouts as you extend your season.

Back off the speed
On a related note, performing intense speed workouts for more than eight consecutive weeks can result in the raising of pH levels. Researchers have found a strong connection between a rise in pH levels and overtraining.

If you’re trying to extend your season by three weeks or more and have already done some serious speed workouts, consider backing off speed work for a week or two and getting back to more strength-based workouts.

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