I typically like to ask customers who come into my store what races they are doing. Many list off a couple of local races or one or two major races like an Ironman, a 70.3, or a big name marathon like Boston. However, some customers, and disturbingly this is becoming more common, give me a laundry list of long distance and short distance races. One customer actually had entered one race per weekend from May through July. While racing gives you motivation to train and an arena to compete, you can race too much, which can lead to serious problems and effect you mentally, physically, and performance.
I have nothing against racing. I personally love to race. Having a race looming in front of me, although scary at times, gets me motivated to race. When I do not feel like getting in the pool or putting on my cycling bibs, I envision my next race and the time that I want, which perks my motivation again. Races also give me an outlet to push my limits. Although I can push myself to new limits in training, there is something about a race that takes me to new heights–heights that you eventually are going to tumble from if you race too much.
Racing in general puts a lot of stress on the body. It increases cortisol levels, weakens the immune system, and breaks down a good deal of muscle. Consequently, if you race at this intensity week after week, you will never be able to recovery properly and you will over stress your body. In turn, your race times will suffer as will your health.
How do you know that you are racing too much? It depends on your distance, experience level, and your intensity. If you are doing shorter events like 5 and 10k road races or sprint or olympic triathlons, recovery does not take as long as marathons or Ironmans. You can therefore race more. Experienced athletes too are able to race more because there bodies have adjusted to that intensity and can bounce back more quickly. Many athletes also plan out there seasons with A, B, and C races which allows them to race multiple times because they are not going 100% t each one. If you like racing multiple times pers season, then think about planning out your race schedule so that some races are done at a lower intensity (C and B races) and only have a few A races. This approach takes a lot of discipline because you cannot get caught up in the emotions and excitement of the race. Stick with your race plan and do not let your ego get in the way.
Good luck in your training and your (selective) racing!
by Coach Chris Hague