There are a few ways to work around this problem and come out the other side victoriously.
I’m going to stay away from the “should races be cancelled?” argument in this article.
Life is mostly unpredictable and unexpected things happen. Right now, we’re going through a pandemic but maybe next year your work schedule will increase and you will need to adapt your training accordingly.
Life happens. There will always be obstacles on the road and we need to learn to maneuver them. Regardless of whether races should or shouldn’t be cancelled- they are being cancelled and so, this is a great opportunity to learn what to do in these situations.
This is the first option to look into. Most races have cancelled the racing event, however, a ‘virtual race’ will still take place! What is a virtual race? A virtual race works the same way that a road race works, but without the competition and spectators.
You can run the virtual race in your home town, in the nearest park or wherever you choose! Just make sure you run the distance you signed up for (different events track the distances with different methods and through different apps, so make sure to read the rules and regulations for your particular race).
The virtual race is the first choice to look into because it allows you to keep your training cycle unchanged. Maybe you were already one week into your taper and you don’t want to let all the training go to waste… the virtual race is the best choice for you!
If the race you signed up for doesn’t have a ‘virtual race’ then you should look for another race with a similar date. There are hundreds of virtual races every year! If you can’t find a virtual race, it’s perfectly ok to run your own race!
Oh, and I forgot to mention something… in virtual races you still win a medal and bib number (sometimes other goodies too)!
If your race isn’t hosting a virtual event, what can you do? Let’s talk about maintenance mode…
Alright, this sounds obvious and I’m pretty sure you’ve already tried this! Have you tried looking for another race? I want to provide some extra insight into this option. If your original race option was only one week away and now you’ve found another race that is up to 12 weeks away, there’s still something you can do to be in the best shape possible on race day!
With most races being postponed (some are even being postponed to 2 months after the original date), it’s your job to adapt your training to these circumstances. If your new race is up to 12 weeks away your best option is to enter maintenance mode.
Since you were so close to race day before it was cancelled, you were probably nearing the peaking phase of your training cycle. As you know, the peaking phase isn’t sustainable in the long term, so you’ll have to make some adjustments.
In maintenance mode you will essentially keep your training volume up while decreasing your intensity. This means you have to remove any race-specific workouts (such as tempo runs and intervals) from your training plan and you will replace them with easier, less anaerobic workouts.
Basically, you’ll be doing a lot more general work (such as long, slow runs and strength work) but you will keep the total volume high! It’s tough to give specific examples about how this works because everyone has different training volumes. If you want to discuss this in further detail you can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or create a post in the R&RT community and tag me (@Paulo Piedade).
Maintenance mode will allow you to keep your fitness up while the world decides what to do next. Maybe your race will just be postponed! If it’s postponed, stick to maintenance mode and start adding speed-specific workouts when race day starts approaching.
If your race ends up being cancelled (and there is no virtual alternative AND you haven’t found another race) then it’s time to start your deload and cut down intensity and volume, winding down your current training cycle.
WHAT IF YOU’RE STUCK AT HOME?
Maybe some of you can’t leave the house. I’ve heard that Spain has prohibited all outside activity (not even running alone in the streets)! This can be tricky and I’m not going to lie to you – it will be hard to simulate running indoors!
If you don’t have a treadmill, you will have to simulate running as best as possible. Literally running around the house doesn’t sound appealing so what is the next best thing? Tabata workouts and high intensity interval training are good substitutes! YouTube is a great resource with classes you can follow along with.
These workouts will push your heart rate up, allowing you to keep developing, or at least maintain, your aerobic capacity!
WHAT TO AVOID
Avoid stopping altogether. I know training for months and not being able to race is frustrating but there is ALWAYS a silver lining. All that training has helped you build an aerobic base that will help you in the future. Your training hasn’t “gone to waste”… it’s still training and it still meant something. Don’t stop training – your future self will thank you!
Remember, it’s tough to be 100% certain what WHAT your next step should be. We’re living through uncertain times and there is no right or wrong answer. We all have to improvise and do the best we can with the tools we’ve got readily available.
The races are being cancelled for one reason and one reason only… to keep us safe and healthy! We’re all on the same team here. Keep a level head.
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