For many cyclists and triathletes, we are now well into the racing season and hopefully we are all enjoying the races and seeing some success. However, this can be a time of year where it gets a little tricky to get the balance right between racing and training and know what training to do. So here are some top tips on how to structure your training during the racing season
Don’t race too much – This is one of the most common mistakes I see through my triathlon coaching; athletes fill their diary with races nearly every weekend but then rarely perform at their best in any of them. If you race too much you risk burning out mentally and physically and you can end up de-training. This is because by the time you have recovered from the race effort and started to freshen up for the next one there is very little time to train, build form and focus on weak areas. My advice would be to race no more than every couple of weeks.
Don’t race too little – The opposite of my last tip! I firmly believe that putting a number on makes you push yourself that much harder and this extra effort will lead to increased fitness – ‘race fitness’. So; if you only race a couple of times in a season you aren’t giving yourself chance to build that race fitness and figure out areas you need to work on. If you are a long- distance athlete you will need to do a few shorter events between main evens to sharpen up a bit. My advice would be to get at least 6 races in over the course of a season.
Work on weaknesses between races – Take time to reflect on what went well and what didn’t go well in your last race and use this to inform your training. For example, you might want to incorporate some transition drills, work on pacing or focus on some threshold and above work if you found the engine wasn’t quite there in the last race.
Train through races to hit peak form -If you have a goal event and a fairly busy race schedule you might want to try training through some less important races to build some extra form, instead of tapering. You might not perform at your best but it will be worth it when you hit the main event
Don’t neglect the base – After spending a lot of time over the winter working on base fitness it is easy to neglect this area of training over the racing season. But don’t let the foundations crumble or your racing will suffer for it so build the occasional longer, endurance session into your plan in order to maintain that solid endurance base. 1-2 sessions a month should be enough.
Taper properly – The key to a good taper is a reduction in volume and maintenance of intensity. Some people find this hard to accept and it seems counter-intuitive but it really does work. Generally, a taper doesn’t have to be too long either, start a week out from your goal event, reduce the volume of sessions but include some short, intense efforts throughout the week to keep you sharp. For many people a total rest day two days before the event and then some short opener sessions the day before work well but its worth experimenting and seeing what works best for you. Some people prefer to rest the day before and do a big warm up on race day. We all have a difference formula!
If you follow these basic tips and take the time to plan your season you will be set for some good races. Remember to plan your training in advance, you will be more likely to do it and you will know where you are heading. It will get you thinking about what you might need to do to improve and you can get creative with training sessions. Remember to keep them varied, keep the body guessing and keep trying to force some adaptation. Most of all enjoy the process!