A well planned season can help you maximise your potential and perform at your best.
2 weeks ago, I shared why racing too often can kill performance.
The post talked about how racing regularly can throw out your load / recovery balance and lead you into a state of fatigue that could affect your ability to race to your potential when it really matters to you.
While that post highlighted a common performance limiter for many athletes, it didn’t go into detail on how to plan the races you do each year.
So continuing from that conversation, I’d like to address the question that naturally follows after: how do I optimally plan the races I want to do each year, to maixmise my potential and lower my risks of injury?
Today, with the new year fast approaching, I’ll share the tips I give our athletes, that help them plan their season in a way that will minimise the risk of injury and burnout.
Bonus: When you are done reading this article, I’ve included a handy season planning template at the end, that we use at Coached to structure the season of the athletes we work with.
Selecting Your Races
Let’s set this straight, once and for all: everyone has a different background. Your fitness level, experience, and goals are unique to you. How often you race and how you recover is entirely personal, and this is why a one-size-fits-all approach will not work.
So as you design your season next year, here are some thoughts on how you should consider selecting your races to find the ‘racing recipe’ that works best for you.
Primary, or peak races as they’re commonly known, are your most important races for the year. These are your ‘A’ races. These races become the ‘anchors’ of your racing and training schedule and your season should be built around having you in prime condition for these events.
Where these races differ most from secondary races is in the length of taper. To ensure you are fully recovered and fresh to race fast, ‘A’ races should come with a full taper built into your training plan.
Some notes on ‘A’ races:
- Select only 2 to 3 ‘A’ races each year.
- Aim to have them well spaced
- Don’t place long races as part of a build up to shorter races. For example, a marathon makes a terrible secondary race when planning to run your best in a 10k.
- A marathon and an Ironman should always be considered ‘A’ races and limited in their frequency due to the extreme demands they place on your body. Remember, just because you can race more than that, doesn’t mean that you should and that it’s good for your health.
Secondary races are less important races that should compliment your preparation for your ‘A’ races. These races allow you to hone your racing skills and dial in your race day processes such as prepping your gear, nutrition, pacing and the like.
Secondary races come in two forms.
- ‘B’ priority races.
- ‘C’ priority races.
‘B’ Priority races are still important and you want to run well in these, but they are not as crucial as your ‘A’ race. As such, training is not specifically planned around them. The taper period into and out of the race is shorter, meaning that you may expect to feel less fresh during the secondary races as you’ll hope to.
Some notes on ‘B’ races.
- Select a handful of ‘B’ races each year (these, together with ‘C’ races, should be no more than twice the number of ‘A’ Races in your season)
- Aim to participate in ‘B’ races that compliment your ‘A’ races in terms of timing (within the year), terrain and conditions.
- ‘B’ races have a reduced taper so don’t be surprised (or disappointed) if you feel heavy during these races.
- Run these races as you wish. Hard as you can or at your ‘A’ race pace for practice.
Some notes on ‘C’ races.
- Select a handful of ‘C’ races each year at most.
- Aim to participate in ‘C’ races that compliment your ‘A and B’ races in terms of timing (within the year), terrain and conditions.
- ‘C’ races are essentially training and should not come with a taper into the race.
- If you run hard, you may need to taper out of the race for a day or two.
Like training, nutrition and all other areas of performance, finding the right recipe for you will take time, trial and error. To help speed this process up and make improvements year-on-year, it’s useful to set aside some time at the end of each year (now’s a good time) to sit down and do an objective assessment of your year and how you felt things went.
- How do you feel your overall year went?
- Did you have any setbacks that affected your ability to race well?
- Did you get the number of races you participated in right?
- If no, were there too many or too few? Or did you get the priority balance wrong?
- What can you do differently for next year to ensure you continue to improve?
- These are just some of the questions you can ask yourself as part of your annual review. Feel free to build on this and find something that works well for you.