Race Like You Train

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 by Coach Kevin

A guiding philosophy of mine is you race like you train. If you only train by running long and slow then you will race that way. If you train on flat courses, you’re probably not going to do well racing on hills. So then why do we sign up for for different length races? Training for maximum performance is different for a Sprint than it is for an Olympic. The run alone is totally a different discipline running a 5K vs 10K. I believe there is no way to train properly for different length races.

I understand that your mileage, and opinion may differ, but here is my take on training for races of different lengths.

Using myself as as an example, I train for and race the Olympic distance. My training is geared for the swim, bike, and run of Olympic distances. Or saying it another way, my training would be completely different if I were training for a Sprint.

Take training for the swim between an Olympic and a Sprint distance race. Right off the bat the training is different as most Sprints are in a pool. You don’t have to worry about navigating and swimming in open water. Since I race Olympics, I make sure I swim open water at least once a week. The distance on the swim is also a huge difference. For a Sprint, I don’t think you really need long swim sessions. Instead you’re better off doing a lot of intense 200-400m intervals. With the Olympic swim, you will need a combination of interval training and long 2500m steady swims.

Running is also completely different from a preparation stand point. Racing a 5K mentally for me means being ready to deal with suffering. The run is short and fast. My training therefore is much more intense and stressful in order to prepare my body and mind. With Olympic lengths, training is going to focus on a combination on endurance and speed. I’ll need to be prepared to chase someone down but then I still have to endure. Accordingly, my training will be tempo runs with pickups and my intervals will not be as intense as they would for the Sprint. The intervals will also tend to be longer. But on my intervals for the Olympic I will go hard and recover while still running at my VO2 threshold to focus on speed and endurance.

So consider your goals and pick your races wisely. After doing so, train for the race, not just to train.

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