Do you recommend using races to train? If so, how should I approach it?

Yes!  If, however (and this is a big ‘if’), you keep the purpose of each race in perspective.


Racing is the purest and truest form of training.  The best way to get faster at doing a triathlon, is doing a triathlon.  To benefit, you must consider your overall goals and determine how each race fits in relative terms.


If you’re main goal is to simply finish any race you do, and you don’t follow a strict plan, then I suggest you can race as much as you like as it has no impact on your non-existent specific goals.  Just be sure to recover from each race and take care of your body.


If however you do have a specific “A-Race” (the most important, ‘shaved and tapered’, down to race weight, mom-is-watching, tattoo worthy, etc.), with specific goals (I would like to finish my first Ironman, get a PB, win my age-group, beat that guy from Lane 2) then you likely have a training plan for the year, and it is this situation that requires you to consider where and how your extra races fit within the master plan. 


For an important race you want to be fully trained and fully rested.  For ‘training-races’ you don’t need to be fully rested; you can use them within a build week, but they must be incorporated the same way you might incorporate any intensity workout (such as intervals).  It would be unlikely that you’d do hard intervals two days back to back (unless you take advice from ‘that guy’ in your club).  You don’t do this because in order to benefit from intensity you need to be able to give it good ‘quality’ and if you’re tired you can’t really do true intensity.  Same goes for a ‘training-race’, you can be tired from the week of training, or from the block of training, but you don’t want to be buried from an epic workout the day before.   You want to be able to put some decent energy and effort into the race in order to gain the benefits of this ‘race specific’ intensity.


Treat training-races as hard, intensity, specific workouts.  If you want to protect the outcome of your ‘A-Race’ then you need to be able to assess your training races the same way as hard workouts.  If you have to shut down the intensity, you need to stop, or if you need to take extra recovery before or after the race, in order to get ‘quality’, then you have to do so.  Be sure to recover properly from a training-race just as you might from a hard intensity workout.  Ensure that you follow your own plan, and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing in the race.  A ‘training-race’ has specific purpose for you, and it is independent of anyone else and their actions on race day.



Wolfgang Guembel – NRG Associate Coach