Lessons Learned from Competition

Do you enter competitive events? For example, if you don’t play a sport what are you doing to assess yourself?

For many, the days of playing competitive sports is long gone and a thing of the past. Now just the thought of getting in a workout feels like a accomplishment let alone thinking about actually entering a race or competitive event.

But there are huge advantages to entering some type of competitive event. Here are a few.

1. You’ll zero in on the weak points of your training.

Let’s say you entered a powerlifting competition and tested your squat, deadlift and bench. And you put up a personal best in your squat and bench but not in your deadlift. You would know where to put more of your attention in the next phase of your training.

You can also get very specific about certain aspects of your lifts. I won’t go into all the details here but let’s imagine you had difficulty locking out the arms to finish the lift. That would be a clue as to how we could modify your training so this is not an issue for you.

2. You’ll get a better appreciation for tapering.

For example, if you were to enter an 8 km race on a Sunday it may not make a lot of sense to go out late on Thursday night and run intense sand dunes and initiate a swim program on a Saturday (more details below).

If doing something you routinely do for a race feels difficult on race day, chances are you didn’t back off on the training enough, increase your rest enough, or both.

The higher the level you attain in your sport the more you’ll appreciate the benefits of tapering and adjusting your training as race day approaches.

3. You’ll be more clear of what you’re capable.

If I weren’t a runner I may think that I could run a 5 km race in 19 minutes. Is this reasonble? How hard would it be for me? Would this be considered a good time? Or 1 hour 17 minutes for a sprint distance triathlon. Again is this reasonable and or competitive?

Sometimes we can set out goals but unless we test ourselves we really don’t know where we are in relation to our ability and potential. And here’s the other thing. Competition is rarely ideal conditions.  We might do all our training runs on the track, when the weather is good and with no hills. Then you show up for the race and it’s freezing, with lots of hills and uneven pavement. It’s going to be a lot more difficult to achieve your time but you get a more real world definition of your fitness.

And that’s the whole point here.

The more information you can gather about how your body works, its strengths and weaknesses, and your potential the more likely you are to realize your health and fitness potential.

Don’t have the time to enter a lot of races? That’s fine. Just make you take really good notes of your training sessions and record as many things as possible.

For example in a training session you can record:

* your weight pre/post training (naked)

* start-finish time

* the acute variables of reps, sets, loads, tempo, rest breaks etc

* how the body felt i.e. right hip tight on lunges

* heart rate data

and much more. The point is you want to have notes of all of these things, at minimum, so you can see the progress you are making and where adjustments in the program need to be made.

A few paragraphs above I mentioned entering an 8 km race. One of our friends, Jim M. proposed this to us on a Tuesday or Wednesday, to compete on the the Sunday. So we registed on Friday afternoon and decided to give it a go.

So we knew we wouldn’t win this 8 km race. Heck we knew we wouldn’t be highly competive. But we knew entering competitive event would give us numbers we could use to improve our fitnesss and our training. The numbers I’m talking about are heart rate values at different points in the race as well as my pace at these points. Here’s what the data looks like:

Distance (km) Heart rate (beats/minute) Time (minutes) Pace (time/km)
1 4:32.75
2 164 9:05.50 4:32.75
3 167 5:17.75
4 170 4:47.25
5 170 4:55.25
6 172 4:31.50
7 176 4:43.50
8 176 37:54 4:50.50


There is quite a bit we can learn from these numbers.

First of all we can see my heart rate ranged from 164-176. Using a theoretical max calculation this would mean I ran at 91% to almost 98% of my max heart rate. I’m not trying to suggest I can run this duration above 90% but more to make the point that some heart calculations are simply estimates i.e. 220-age.

Secondly you can see that my total time for this race was 37 minutes 54 seconds. Could I run faster or improve on this time? Definitely. But this provides valuable information as to what pace I can sustain over 8 km. And in this case my pace was 4 minute 45 seconds per kilometer.

Thirdly you can see the range in my pace change over the course the race. The reason the first two kilometers are the same is that there was no distance marker until kilometer 2. So the split at this point registered the time to get to the second kilometer which was then divided to give an estimate of my pace. My pace ranged from a low of 4:31 to a high of 5:17 Why the difference? The second half of the run has a nice downhill descent which allows for a quicker pace at his point. And the 5:17 was when Jim had to stop to tie his shoe. I slowed up a little bit here and then picked it up again later.

So where to from here?

First I’m going to have my lactacte threshold and VO2 max assessed. What percent of my max HR was I really running at? The other thing I’d like to be able to do is a run at a consistent pace and know exactly what that feels like and not have to look at my heart rate monitor to see. And lastly I want to set a goal to run a race for a particular pace. For example, I like to run the 5 km portion of the triathlon under 21 minutes. We’ll see.

Chris                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Okanagan Peak Performance Inc.

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