Got Major Race FOMO? Do THIS to Pick Your Running Schedule

Got major race FOMO? Before you sign up for a ton of races, take a minute to get clear, BEFORE you pick your running schedule.
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Wondering how to do that when so many races look like epic adventures, challenges, and potential PRs?
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Before you whip out your credit card, sign up for more races, and potentially create an impossible running schedule, take a step back.
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In this article, we'll cover SIX questions to ask yourself before you sign up for your next race.

The classic running schedule mistake

With spring well underway, race season is officially in full swing. 
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But you already know that, whether or not you have a race of your own on the calendar—because there’s nothing more than the running side of social media loves than a good race day highlight reel. 

  • A quick scroll makes it seem like everyone around you, from Olympians on down through hobby joggers...
  • Is toeing a start line every other weekend and setting PR’s each time. 

Then, if you’re anything like me, the mental spiral starts. 

Mine goes a little something like this…

😭Wait, she’s racing again this weekend?

  • Didn’t she just break a freakin’ course record a few weeks ago? 
  • And that’s after that race we both ran together earlier this year. 

😭How did they recover so fast? 

  • It took me almost a month to hit my old paces again after that. 
  • I’m not even racing again for another two months. 

😭Am I just not trying hard enough? 

  • Should my schedule look like hers? 
  • Is she getting faster than me while I just wait around and train? 
  • How can I catch up before I fall even more behind?

👉[Phew, I’m exhausted just writing that down. Pro tip: whenever you feel slow on your feet, just think about how fast your mind can run when you let it loose.]

The point I’m trying to make here is that the seasonal inundation of #finishlinefeels tends to trigger plenty of other feelings as well.
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It’s easy to assume that no matter how your running schedule shakes out, it’s not enough to measure up since someone is (supposedly) always:

  • Doing more
  • Going harder
  • Bouncing back faster
  • Or some combination of all three

Sometimes, that’s true. 
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Other times, it only seems that way because the algorithm keeps sending you the same recycled content on repeat. 
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Either way, runners will inevitably find themselves in the midst of comparisons that make them question their own approach to racing. 

The truth: You can’t do all the races

Some runners thrive on ten races a year. Others would break before they get halfway to that mark.
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That’s why there’s unfortunately no “right way” to race.
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Quantity doesn’t matter; quality does.
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If you race more often that your body and mind can healthily handle, prepare to compromise on the quality of your running—and the rest of your life, for that matter.
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You can’t do all the races. 

  • That’s the one absolute that applies to everyone (even your favorite runfluencer who seems to pin on a new bib in every video). 
  • From there, it’s all individual. Sorry, I know that’s not the quick solution to the “should I, shouldn’t I” dilemma that you want to hear. 

But no hard and fast rule could possibly account for the different:

  • Physiologies
  • Preferences
  • Priorities, and...
  • Plans that go into deciding how many you can

The only “best racing and running schedule” is the ONE that allows you to produce your best work amidst all of those factors. 

Your running schedule is your business

Today’s media landscape has turned racing into a public affair when really it should be anything but.
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Your running schedule is your business, because no one else knows your body or your life like you do. 

  • There’s no right answer to how often you can step up to a start line feeling ready to rip. 
  • Only you can decide that by consulting the context behind your personal running story. 

Whenever race FOMO strikes, ask yourself these SIX questions to decide on a race & running schedule that works on your terms. 

1. How quickly does my body recover?

Recovery is a prerequisite for racing. 

  • You won’t be able to throw down at a race if you haven’t recovered well enough from the last one to feel pumped and primed out there.
  • Let’s not forget that training requires recovery too. 
  • Big training blocks packed with double-digit long runs and high intensity speedwork do a number on the body. 
  • You won’t see results on race day without a well-managed taper. 

🏃‍♀️Some runners bounce back from hard efforts faster than others.
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There are a few things you can do to speed up that process, such as:

  • Fueling like a champ (before, during and after your race)
  • Sleeping more than a teenager on the weekend
  • Boosting blow flow throughout your body

🧬But the rest boils down to genetics

  • Certain genetic variants impact an individual’s ability to recover from exertion. 

Depending on which genotypes you possess, your body will respond to exercise differently. 

  • MMP3 variants, for example, produce different levels of an enzyme that helps repair muscle and soft tissue after exercise breaks them down. 
  • Research on the relationship between genetic variation and exercise-induced muscle damage demonstrates that other genotypes, like ACTN3 and TNF, impact the rate of muscle breakdown itself. 

Short of getting genetic testing, it’s hard to know exactly how your genes will affect your recovery timeline.
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That’s where experiential evidence comes in. Reflect on a time when you felt at the top of your game during a race and gave everything you could. 

  • How long was the build-up? 
  • What did your taper look like? 
  • When did your energy start to come back afterward? 
  • Which parts of your body seemed to hold onto fatigue while others shook it off? 

No two race experiences are the same, so take the average of a few different data points to get a decent idea of how your body responds to racing. 
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Leave enough buffer room between races to account for the entire cycle, from base to build to taper to race to rest and back to base.

2. How quickly does my mind recover?

Racing takes a mental toll too. Running at peak speed or max distance is inherently uncomfortable. 
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  • Even if your body is capable of the effort, your mind will often try to convince you that it’s not so you don’t have to experience the pain.
  • Every time you choose to keep going anyway, you’re waging a war on your mind’s self-protective mechanisms. That’s just as exhausting as the running itself. 
  • Tack on the incredible amount of focus it takes to hold pace, navigate terrain, ward off competitors, keep up with fueling, and make all the other micro-decisions that add up along the way. 

😖The brain fog that comes from maxing out your cognitive load like that can linger for days to weeks after finishing a race.

  • Even after the fog lifts, there’s a lot of mental processing to be done. 
  • Successes, failures, surprises, lessons, missed connections… 
  • No matter how the day went, you’ll need time to digest it all. 
  • If you try to skip over that time, you risk missing out on the chance to grow from your experience and tweak your tactics moving forward, not to mention burning out on running altogether. 

👉Go through the same reflective exercise as before, but consider the mental side of your race experience.

  • How tough was it to motivate yourself through training? 
  • How much effort did it take to hone your mental focus during the race? 
  • How long did it take for you to stop zoning out in work meetings and forgetting your friends’ names afterward? 
  • How much time did you need to process what happened out there? 
  • When did you start to feel excited about going out for a run again? 

Don’t put another race on the calendar without making sure you get enough of a break from the daily grind to remember why you love it and learn how to keep improving. 

3. How's my relationship with stress?

Runners like to say that running helps them deal with stress, and it very well might. 
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But running is also its own form of stress. That’s the point. 

  • You stress your body just enough to push it past the point of comfort.
  • Then step back to let it recover and build back stronger. 
  • There’s no skipping the “step back” part, though, and that’s where people tend to struggle with stress. 

As I mentioned above, your body needs time to recover from the stress of running and racing. So does your mind.
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But in order to do that, runners need to evaluate their relationship with stress first.
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😯Consider how you think about stress: 

  • Do you judge it? 
  • Ignore it? 
  • Barrel through it? 
  • Establish healthy boundaries so it doesn’t keep you up all night questioning your life choices? 

Most people fall into anything but the final category. 
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  • Those who can healthily process and compartmentalize stress will be able to experience stress more often because it doesn’t wield the same power over them. 
  • Those who fear stress so much that they resist ever acknowledging it, or alternatively let stress dictate their every thought and action, will need more time between stressors like racing if they want to avoid long-term health consequences. 

If you want to race more often, make it a goal to improve your relationship with all kinds of stress across the board.

4. How's your relationship with failure?

The more you race, the more you open yourself up to potential failure. 

  • That’s because it’s impossible to have a great day, every day. 
  • The stars don’t always align on command. 
  • Even infrequent racing carries the risk of coming up short of your true potential. 
  • Frequent racing just makes the chance of having an off day on race day more likely since there are more opportunities for things to go right, wrong, or somewhere in the murky middle. 

There’s nothing inherently wrong with failure. 

  • In fact, it’s pretty necessary from a growth standpoint. 
  • If you’re not falling flat on your face sometimes, you’re likely not challenging yourself enough to take your craft to the next level. 
  • You also miss out on the chance to learn how not to do something, which is one of the best ways to learn how to do it right. 

😭But failure also hurts.

  • It takes intentional exposure to failure and all the icky feelings failure inspires to see the constructive side. Until then, failure just feels like sh*t. 

Racing often means failing often, or at least laying yourself bare to the possibility of failing. Sit with that thought before hitting “add to cart.” 

5. What are my goals for this race?

With that in mind, your race goals play a part in deciding the races you do.

  • The more time you give yourself to: recover, rebuild, peak, and taper between races...
  • The higher your chances of showing up strong. 
  • The less time you dedicate to the cycle, the more likely you are to show up subpar. 

😃For some runners, that’s OK.

  • They’re able to treat some races like training runs with an added element of excitement
  • They’re content with holding themselves back or abstaining from playing the comparison game. 

Other runners don’t have the same self-control or self-compassion. Still others just love the feeling of flying so much that they don’t want to race unless they’ll be able to tap into that high. 
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🏃‍♀️You probably can’t PR every month. Big goals take time. Race less to race hard. 

6. What else is going on in my life?

As previously discussed, stress is stress, no matter where it comes from. 
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For example:

  • Race plans are no more or less stressful than traveling across the country for your best friend’s wedding or switching career paths.
  • They each take time, effort, intention, and energy. Individually, they’ll challenge you. 
  • All together, they’ll smash you to smithereens. 

👉Choose your battles.
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Some seasons of life pack more of a punch than others. 
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At those times, more races on your running schedule won’t do your performance or your sanity any favors. 
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Consider whittling things down to the ones you care about most so you’re unquestionably stoked for them—not resentful of yet another “to-do.”

The secret to planning your running schedule...

Racing shouldn’t feel like an obligation. 

  • You’ll run faster when you genuinely want to be there. 
  • Remember as well that well-rounded humans make better runners. 
  • Take care of all sides of yourself. 
  • The good-life energy carries over. 

How do you plan your running schedule?

Share your tips in the comments.

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Lucie Hanes
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Eagle, CO
27 Followers
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Ultrarunner, rock climber, occasional artist, fond of good wordplay. Small human on big adventures with big goals and big fee...

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