Coach Tip Tuesday: Wear Gloves When Planning Your Racing Season
As we are staring down these final weeks of 2019, so many people are starting to think about what 2020 is going to look like for them. Many races are opening for registration, offering deals, and enticing athletes to sign up for their events in 2020. This creates a perfect storm; athletes are seeking goals to set, and races are providing that opportunity for them to “officially” set those goals by registering. I bet that more than 75% of you reading this are already registered for a race in 2020. #raiseyourhands
Fun Doesn't Necessarily Mean Wise
It’s a very common thing for me to see: athletes sign up for something because it seems like so much fun, and then realize after they register that it’s close in time to something else that they’ve already signed up for. And so the process repeats itself until an athlete has a calendar chock-full of races that honestly, weren’t really well-planned out and a season that is defined by those choices.
While this certainly can be a very fun way to approach a racing season, it’s usually not the wisest way. Coming into a racing season picking races on a whim without consideration for where they fall relative to other races what the athlete wants to do or with what an athlete might have going on in their life at the time of the race has been a way that I have seen many, many athletes either get injured or burn out over the years.
For 2020, I encourage you all to approach your racing season with wisdom and to “wear gloves” when planning your racing season. Basically, I encourage you to handle your season schedule with care, as if you would handle a precious gem or a fragile piece of art. In reality, you are handling things that are both precious and fragile: your body and your mental and physical longevity in sport.
Less is More
You’ve heard me talk about this before: the most that a majority of age-group athletes can be peaked and truly ready to race for high-aiming goals is three times per year. Yes, under the right circumstances and with a very carefully managed plan, it’s possible to peak and race at a high level more times than that, but it takes a very resilient body and a lot of time, experience, and skill to be able to handle the type of training schedule that that kind and frequency of performance demands. As much as age-group athletes want it to be different for them, it’s not; most age-group athletes don’t have the time in their daily lives to accommodate the immense amounts of recovery that have to come with a schedule like that.
Thus, I’ve learned over the years that it’s very important to be open and honest about what’s actually possible with athletes, as that gives us the highest probability of success at being successful at reaching those goals. Very often, this results in me telling athletes something that they don’t want to hear (such as that they won’t have a high probability of success at reaching goals that are misaligned or improperly timed). It is, however, the truth.
The Law of Diminishing Returns
Race timing and season planning is a core ingredient to successfully meeting goals. Somewhat ironically, this becomes even truer the longer an athlete is active in sport. When someone is new to sport, it’s easier to race a lot without it being as much of a concern or issue, as there is generally a big range of “where the athlete can go” in terms of time, distance, etc. But as an athlete gets stronger, makes gains, gets a bit faster, and gains more proficiency, a law of diminishing returns begins to apply. In order to make gains and reach goals, athletes need to change how they are treating their racing calendars. Racing too frequently or with unrealistic expectations in those races can lead to distress, burnout, fatigue, or injury, which is exactly the opposite of why any athlete gets involved with endurance sports in the first place. Therefore, doesn’t it make sense to try and avoid that?
The Bottom Line
If you have a coach, consult with them about your upcoming season. Set specific goals that you want to achieve and articulate those so you can have that conversation about what kind of timeline is realistic to reach those goals. There might be some goals that are possible in 2020; others may take you until 2021 or beyond to reach. And you know what? That’s OKAY! You don’t need to do ALL THE THINGS in a single year. You can leave yourself yearning for and wanting for more so you have something to work toward over the long haul.
Take an honest look at your calendar before you sign up for a race to make sure it makes sense with your goals and with the rhythm of your life (i.e. A CPA would find it challenging (to say the least) to try for an A-Goal on April 10. :) ) Consider waiting until you know for sure if something will really work with your life and your goals to register; I’ve found that it’s sometimes better to wait and pay a bit more knowing that something will work than to put out the money very far in advance and then “force” it to fit in. Know that you will reap so many benefits over the short and long-term if you handle your season using any or all of these tactics.
So, put on those gloves, handle your training and racing with care, and get to planning.
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.