Balancing Training and Racing

Balancing Racing and Training

As much as the weather disagrees, we have now entered the part of year when many riders start kicking off the race season with weekend racing nearly every week. With that comes the question: how to best show off the hard work you did training in races while continuing to train and progress?

This isn't easy, and require balance and taking into consideration:

  • Current levels of fitness.

  • Ability to recover and how you’ve trained to improve over winter.

  • What your ‘A’ event and ultimate goals are for the coming season.

  • How much you have improved on weaknesses prior to the race season.

  • Illness/injury that might inhibit your racing once started.

  • Race program leading up to ‘A’ event.

What we don't want to see is athletes head into the season with good legs and improved fitness from the previous year only to see these gains and form disappear by April.  

A drop in form can actually be part of a cycle of de-training once the race season gets underway.  When the race season starts, often all your physical and mental energy is placed into the weekend of racing, the focus is on results in races.  Of course this is not a bad thing, but mid-week training must remain a clear focus.

This de-training slump often comes from too much rest pre- and post- race which involves greatly reduced physical training stimulus than our bodies have experienced over the winter months.  Take for example a typical Sunday race weekend, with the lead up and subsequent recovery:

  • Friday is an easy day or rest.

  • Saturday is an easy pre race spin of a couple of hours.

  • Sunday is a race (2-3hrs).

  • Monday is another rest day.

So out of 4 days, there is really only 1 day of training stress. If something happened race day (flat tire, etc) then that drops even more,


IMPACT ON UNDER TRAINED RIDERS

The flip side of this balance are those riders on the opposite end of the fitness spectrum who are under trained or lack ‘race form’ going into the start of the season.  You often hear these riders want to ‘race themselves fit and into form’.

The ability to recover from a weekend of racing has a significant impact on how qualitative your training is going to be the following week.  There can often be an onset of muscle fatigue 24-48hrs after a race which may require taking an extra rest day or sub-standard training day.  

Your body needs to repair damaged muscles from the previous strenuous race effort. The nervous system is working to repair muscles and your cells are working overtime to rebuild damaged tissue.  The good news is this leads to increased muscle strength and fitness but with a lower level of fitness your body’s ability to recover from that race effort takes longer.  This in turn leaves you unable to train effectively as your muscles ‘heal’ from the race. 

Along with the cellular and nervous system’s reaction in the days after a race effort, this strenuous weekend effort can also lead to a lowering of the immune system which can in turn result in illness or injury which will inhibit your training.  This arises not only because you are putting your body under a level of stress you have not trained for, but also because of possible poor post-race care and nutrition.

Consistency is key in everything you do from training, nutrition on and off the bike and appropriate recovery to make the most of race day performance and mid week training.  You want to hit those key target goals you have set yourself this year.  Keep the above in mind and you are well on your way.