article by Taylor Thomas
For a lot of athletes, racing is the ultimate goal and focus. It’s what inspires many to train and devote themselves to the time necessary to prepare their body and mind. If you’ve yet to embark on your journey as a racer it can daunting and challenging to think critically about what’s actually involved in both the planning and preparation. Racing should be exciting and motivating, but it should also be something that, for athletes new to it, be approached methodically and appropriately. Setting yourself up for success for your first race will set the tone for what’s to come, and help to form good habits that will lead to longevity and success in your discipline.
Give Yourself Time
If you’re thinking about starting to race, or have already singled out the race(s) you’re interested in, it’s important to give yourself time to prepare. Pick and plan your races as far in advance as possible. The “off-season” is a good time to think through what races you’d like to do, and how these potential events will interact with your schedule and other responsibilities. Take work travel, family vacations, and other responsibilities into consideration at the onset of your race planning. The more details you take into consideration, the more likely you are to set yourself up for success. Once you’ve identified your events work backward to figure out how much time you’ll need to prepare, keeping in mind that there’s no such thing as too much time for preparation. At a minimum 16-weeks of “base” building followed by 12-weeks of race-specific focus will help to ensure all of the proper pieces are in place. If you can make more time in the early “base phase” that’s never a bad thing. When beginning your training be sure to add training stress slowly to give your body ample time to adapt and build fitness. It takes many training cycles to become race ready, so don’t rush it. Committing to your first race is exciting, but don’t dive in too quickly. Take the time early to make sure all of the pieces are in place and that you tackle your training correctly.
Don’t Overdo It
The excitement of committing to your first race can leave you vulnerable to being swept up in wanting to sign up for as many events as possible. If you feel this urge, do your best to resist it. Don’t overload your calendar with too many events. Give yourself space between races to focus on individualized training, as well as time to apply lessons learned from past events to improve your future training. All too often athletes new to racing take the “more is better” approach to signing up for races as well as in their training approach. Keep intensity in check. Many athlete’s first inclination is to “sprint” as much as possible and to make every workout a high-intensity interval session. Leave plenty of time for endurance (Zones 2-3) work, and keep high-intensity sessions focused and spaced accordingly. More training hours and/or intensity doesn’t necessarily equal greater fitness. Just because you can do more doesn’t mean you should. Keep quality high, and rest frequent. This approach will lead to longevity vs. burnout, overtraining, and possible injury.
Racing can add both excitement and focus to your training that brings tremendous value. However, it’s important to use this excitement and motivation properly. If at all possible, start planning early to give yourself ample time for preparation. Plan your preparation and training such that duration, frequency, and intensity are ramped up methodically. Use individualized training metrics to monitor your progress and ensure that you’re preparing specifically for your race(s). At the onset focus on training fundamentals to lay the groundwork for more dynamic and progressive training in the seasons to come. Most importantly make sure you enjoy the process and learn from every experience. Racing can be the highlight of your training if approached properly.
Taylor Thomas is the founder and head coach of TEC. He’s a dedicated endurance athlete with over a decade of experience as a competitive cyclist. He’s been involved in all facets of the sport, from working professionally with top brands like Trek and Specialized, founding race teams, organizing events, and personally competing at all levels. His racing background includes road, cyclocross, triathlon and ultra endurance events that push both the mind and body to the limit.
As a USAC certified and Training Peaks level 2 coach he enjoys sharing what he’s learned with his athletes to help them achieve their goals. As a professional mountain biker and coach he’s intimately aquatinted with what it takes to be successful at any level. He knows what it’s like to balance family, work, life, and training. Taylor works closely with all of his athletes to ensure that the training they receive is designed to fit into their life.
Data is very powerful! Whether it’s TrainingPeaks, WKO4, or others, he uses a variety of tools to analyze each athlete’s progress individually. By understanding the data, and knowing how to apply it, every athlete receives a truly individualized approach to their training. These insights are also applied to writing customized workouts, training blocks and developing comprehensive race strategies for every athlete. Coach Taylor believes that understanding the science of coaching is vital in helping athletes of all levels achieve their goals.
You must be logged in to post a comment.