Racing: how often is too often?

When it comes to racing how often is too often? Is it better to go for quality over quantity? Here are my thoughts racing frequently.

I recently saw a debate on Twitter about racing too frequently. The original tweet was aimed at those who run marathons every month instead of focusing their efforts on 1-2 events per year. Understandably, the comment caused a lot of controversy and divided opinions. It got me thinking- how often is too often when it comes to racing? Should we prioritise quality over quantity? 

I’ve been criticised in the past for having an unfocused approach to racing. It’s not uncommon for me to do 16-18 events per year, which are usually a mixture of swimming, cycling, running and triathlon. Personally, I like to make the most of the season and squeeze in as much as I physically can. A successful season for me is a rack full of medals and a mind full of happy memories. In the words of Brett Sutton, “Race hard and race often. We train so that we’re able to race. We don’t race so that we’re able to train”.

There are so many exciting and interesting events around the country, it’s easy to get caught up and enter everything your budget will allow. I certainly experience FOMO when my friends sign up for races, so I try to consider the bigger picture and make strategic choices. Next season, I’m considering a different approach. I plan to focus on the half Outlaw Triathlon as my main race and keep the rest of my calendar quite minimal. 

I do however think it’s important to define your goals before entering into a race. We all have different and equally valid reasons for racing. Some will race to achieve a certain time goal, whilst some will race for enjoyment with no emphasis on the finishing time. It’s absolutely fine to take part just for fun, just to support a friend or just for the experience. I’ll admit, many of my race choices are based on the finisher’s medal! 

I often use a race as training towards a bigger, more important goal. Choosing races that compliment each other and planning them into the build up to your A race can be an effective strategy. For example, I’ll do an Olympic distance triathlon whilst working towards an half-iron triathlon. I’ll treat it as a training session so there is no pressure,  but it’s a chance to practice pacing and to test my kit and nutrition. 

When racing back-to-back, it’s impossible to expect to be at peak fitness for each race. To perform optimally, it’s wise to choose an A race which is your main focus and the culmination of your training and preparation. All races leading up to this will be B races which are used as training events, and C races which are just for fun. An effective training plan should increase in intensity and volume as your A race approaches, before tapering towards the main event. This year, I didn’t chose an A race, instead I just ticked off a list of fun events which I fancied doing.

Another consideration is recovery. If you are suffering from nagging fatigue and injuries then it’s likely you are racing too often. Between races, the goal should be to recover fully.

So how often is too often? Provided you are structuring your season, recovering well and managing your expectations then the race frequency really down to the individual. Celebrate every finish line regardless of the finish time. Ultimately, we race for fun and enjoyment- if you like to race often then do it with a smile.

How often do you race? Do you go for quality or quantity? 

6 Comments

  1. November 10, 2017 / 12:15 pm

    I think it really does depend on goals, and just physically how much you can do. I’ve done a race every month this year, which is way more than my usual but also not as many as a lot of other people! I’ve managed to get my 10k times down, but I still struggled in my last half marathon because I didn’t fully focus on it… I think next year is going to be a lot more focused!

    • November 25, 2017 / 8:16 pm

      Well done on getting your 10k time down! What are you going to focus on for next year?

  2. November 7, 2017 / 6:54 am

    I really enjoy races, but last year I was getting a bit tired of having to be somewhere else early on a Sunday morning, and ended up missing out on other things due to having to race the same day, so this year I tried to enter fewer. I do agree, if I see a good medal it is very tempting!

    • November 25, 2017 / 8:19 pm

      Yes agree, the early mornings starting getting to me this summer! It’s good to have a little bit of a lay-in some weekends, although I still wake up early!

  3. Helen Garcia
    November 4, 2017 / 3:10 am

    I have a habit of filling my season with events, but a mix of swim, bike and run events, usually with a triathlon as my main focus, I very rarely race for time though usually for fun, and try to give myself at least one weekend a month without an event… just so I can have a lazy morning in bed…

    • November 25, 2017 / 8:23 pm

      I know right? It’s good having a bit of a lay-in at least once a month!

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