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For the past four summers, I noticed a trend when June or July rolled around. With several key races still on the calendar, I found myself ready to cash in the season. The main culprit has been more of a mental fatigue and general lack of motivation. I also lacked the necessary competitive fire that we all need when toeing that start line. Physically, my body was doing well and felt strong. But if the mind goes, it seems to trump the rest of the body.
I began this running journey almost 11 years ago in my mid-thirties and I feel like I have more in the tank. But I also believe that racing 20-30 times several of those years has come back to bite me. Let’s face it, some times too much of a good thing can become a bad thing…dang it!
As we get older (aren’t we all getting older?), it becomes imperative that we also become wiser. I’d like to share several tips for those of you who enjoy (or perhaps are addicted to) racing multiple times a year. Keep these tips in mind and your 2019 will be a success on many levels.
Put together a schedule that includes events that are most important to you. Make these events your priority. Peak for these races with a quality build up phase, taper, and recovery. Make all other events secondary by simply using them as training. That means you don’t go all-out which takes a measure of discipline to hold back.
Don’t let FOMO (fear of missing out) take over your life. There are so many fantastic events that we feel we must do all of them! If we’re honest, we could find a great event each and every weekend. Use self-control and choose a few. Your body will reward you. When we race too often, we also diminish quality training.
Maybe there are some races that you want to do as a team with your friends or coworkers. Or perhaps you want to run a race with your kids. Make time for fun events where you can go slow and not worry about setting a personal best. This strategy will let you enjoy attending and participating in events, without burning out too early in the season.
Sometimes a cold bug hits you at the worst time, derailing your plans for a weekend long run. Or terrible weather hits and you have to run a key workout on the treadmill (“dreadmill” to some). Maybe work keeps you so late that you miss that mid-week group run. Sometimes things happen that are out of your control. You need to expect the unexpected and adapt to problems that come up.
It may sound crazy to take a few intentional breaks when you’re really fit, but within a long season of endurance sports, it can be a welcome relief to schedule a few weeks of down time and unstructured training. If you know you have a vacation planned or a busy week at work coming up, taking it easy can give you the mental and physical rest that you need without hurting your level of fitness. That doesn’t mean you sit on the couch and eat bonbons the whole time. You’re simply backing off both mileage and intensity while allowing your body to enjoy some recovery. Trust me, this can pay dividends later in the season.
If you hit your peak level of fitness too early, it can be difficult to maintain. For example, I ran a local winter series here in Colorado Springs during multiple years that includes four trail races. Rather than taking these races easy and enjoying a fun atmosphere, I would race all-out. It’s no wonder I felt the effects by the time my priority events arrived during summer. You may end up worn down or possibly injured trying to stay at your top level of fitness and peak weight for too long. Plan your peak wisely.
Monitor how you feel and how your body is doing on a constant basis. I’ve used the services of Inside Tracker on a few different occasions in order to analyze my bloodwork. These guys specialize in helping endurance athletes stay on top of their game. Use code trainwellracewell for a discount if you’re interested in giving them a try.
Know when to back off or slow down and when to push harder. Or as Kenny Rogers would say, “You gotta know when to hold em and know when to fold em.” By being aware of your sleep habits, nutrition, heart rate, and stress levels, you can adjust as the season progresses. I’ll sometimes schedule a one-hour massage if my body is telling me I need one. My wife and I also visit our Chiropractor every other week which helps keep our bodies tuned and aligned.
“Clark, that’s the gift that keeps on givin’ the whole year.” – Cousin Eddie, Christmas Vacation
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