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Effective ways to plan your racing season

Firstly a big topic is taking time off, the big problem with runners is they do not like to rest and want to run all year round and chase PB’s. However, having time off running each year be an advantage and work wonders with your training.

Off-season

Having time off (roughly 7-10 days a year) will help a lot. Of course you will lose a small amount of fitness but your body needs a rest to allow the muscles to rebuild, and you will need a rest mentally before you will be raring to go again.

This is known as the off season, if you continue to go without resting and keep training and racing, it will eventually lead to a decrease in performance, mental burnout and injuries. You can see from this that complete rest is so important. You see this in many athletes throughout their seasons each year. Our bodies need time off from training and racing to recover. By reflecting on your training and races, you can plan and prepare for the up and coming year. After pounding our bodies for a while they need a break. While the off-season allows recovery, it also brings healthy training and racing. The biggest mistake people make is when your injured and are resting an injury but then you jump back into what you where doing before. 

The mind is very powerful and time after time I see athletes of all ability burn out because they keep training all year round. The off season has a huge positive impact to your health and your mind, it helps heals the mind thus preventing burn out and our bodies thus preventing injuries.

Reflecting

It also give you time to reflect on what went right and wrong for you in the year so you can change your training up to factor this in so to better next time. When you have a year plagued with injuries and poor performances, it is a big sign that you are pushing too hard, training too much and over-training. I have 10-14 days off every year after my racing season and once I come back I build up very slowly for next year and do plenty of base training with the focus of races a long way away. I didn’t have the right mental state last year and my off season helped so much. I wasn’t going to race but I then started to enjoy my hobby and ended up finding the love again. I turned up to races in a different state of mind and I can say all the races I have done this year I have enjoyed and done better than I expected.

I believe I had a very strong season this year. When you have a strong season feeling good and performing well, it means you’re doing the right thing and you can use it again for future seasons. The off season allows you to be honest about your performance, make changes to your training (if you need to), recover and improve for next time.

I found I was doing more treadmill runs, as I am getting older I found that running on the treadmill was easier on the body so I would get treadmill runs in regularly. I found sometimes I just didn’t want to go out and wanted to go in my shed and but music on and just run inside.

Zone 2 training

The first aspect is having a time off period and rest period each year, then you need to rebuild and build up slowly. Zone 2 training is a great way to build up slowly in the coming months.

Zone 2 training should be a big bulk of your weekly training. It should leave you feeling fresher and more recovered so you can really target your hard runs. This will keep the injuries away. If the injuries stay away then to me that’s a major important factor in any training. Not only will you get consistent training, which is the key, but if you get consistent training you are very likely to improve. If you keep over training and get injured you will just end up chasing your fitness and making excuses.  With zone 2 training, you should be able to maintain a conversation very easily. I always like to focus on form as it’s easy to do whilst at this heart rate. What is there not to like about it? It’s a well-known method and your body needs to repair – you just cannot keep breaking your body down with hard training. I always point out to people even the best marathon runners in the world run slow miles.

Zone 2 is steady training just coming above the easy zone. The main benefit form zone 2 heart rate or zone 2 power is that it builds aerobic base and endurance. By improving aerobic capacity this improves your ability to maintain a faster pace for a longer period of time. Of course you still need to do the higher intensity efforts but zone 2 is the basis and foundation from which to begin to build your faster pace. If you have a strong aerobic capacity it will also allow you to recover quicker between those higher intensity efforts.  For example, with a better aerobic fitness, you will be able to perform intervals with a shorter rest in between and hit pace stronger.

But you need to plan your races right, people try to peak all year round and PB every race they do, that’s not going to happens as I mentioned before. So while you have some down time you can look at two key races to try and peak through the year. I always tell people these are the two key races you try to peak in the peaking cycle and any other races are used as part of the build up to these. Having two races around 12 weeks apart is a good guide and once you have planned you races you are able to start thinking about your plan.

I hope this blog is helpful, but in a nutshell some time off training and racing is very important if you want to improve and be the best you can be.

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