A Zero Year From Racing

As a therapist, I’m relatively used to the notion that I get to both speak and hear about things that seem like socially taboo topics-I’ve been trained to get comfortable hearing the uncomfortable…

So in that spirit…here I go:

I wish for a total “zero” year in racing for 2020.  Yup, that’s right-no racing at all.

Please hear me out….it’s a good thing.  Before I launch in that direction of why that is my wish for our endurance athletic community,  this by no means addresses the complexities of the economic fallout or hardship many of our race directors are facing.  This is written to address the athlete or participant point standpoint.

So why, a year without racing?  What are the benefits of taking away competition?  

I’m sure it’s safe to say that nearly all of us would desire to never have to repeat much of what the year 2020 has dealt us so far.  I see the longing for normality in almost every person I encounter.  This year, 2020, has been like nothing I have ever experienced or dreamed of experiencing…and it’s only over half way through.   Strangely, I hold optimism here.

So with the notion that 2020 has been a psychological ground-zero for most, there is this sublime opportunity  within it: 

To endurance athletes, without racing…we are forced to discover our raw, organic motivation, passion, and driving force behind these strange things we do.  

Naturally, it will also expose the dark sides to our athletic pursuits as well.  In my clinical experience, I find that all athletes have a mixture of both passion, and neurosis.

Racing is not a negative-let’s get that clear from the start,  but it is something that most of us have some type of pressure driven relationship with.  Removing it allows us to be without pressure and go deeper into real selves.  Ironically the actual race or event typically only takes up a tiny percentage of our overall training.  5-10% at most?

So not having racing for an entire year is This is an opportunity-and one that could never happen again!  Wouldn’t it be awesome to embrace it instead of push against it?

Here’s a laundry list of possibilities that really could happen if we can flip from viewing this year as a loss to viewing this year as an opportunity.  As athletes we could:

  • Be more rested 
  • Be less injured and more resilient
  • Be less anxious
  • Be faster, more powerful, more balanced
  • Be better at our relationships
  • Be better at “listening to our bodies”
  • Be happier

Sounds pretty great, huh?  Who wouldn’t want most of these things.  So how does racing get in the way?

For most athletes, racing acts like a carrot (or a stick) of motivation.  We sign up for a race, or are obligated to do a race and it “forces” us in a way to do the training, to wake up early for workouts, to push all other things aside.  Yes, it’s a form of motivation but at the very same time it also acts like a pressure valve.  We often slip into the “twilight zone” of override.  

“Override” is a term I use with my athletes and clients to describe a pattern in which we psychologically ignore thoughts, emotions, body sensations…in order to do x,y,z.

As endurance athletes, this pathway is well defined, because at times we do need to utilize override to push past comfort and ease in training.

But chronic override comes at a huge cost.  It often leads to injury, anxiety, stress, and overall less satisfaction in life and sport.

When we are in override, we will often push too hard and too frequently or be checked out joy and pleasant experiences.

Racing often promotes an unhealthy type of motivation and is often at the root of override.  I often have heard an athlete say, “Oh, this is only a fun race, it’s not a big deal.”  Often to be stricken by familiar waves of nerves, anxiety and negative self talk.  I have to wonder then if that race was a beneficial experience.

I also have noticed that signing up for racing can be like a moth to the flame…we may instinctively know that it causes pressure and stress but we just can’t seem to stop ourselves from going there.

So…a year without racing could be an amazing way to reset ourselves, as athletes.

I’ve noticed a trend in endurance training blogs during the pandemic-a trend to keep athletes pushing hard, keeping their eyes on performance and fitness.  I get it-we’re all just trying to figure this wacky world out right now.  But what if we started to shift our focus from short term “race type” fitness to the longer term type of fitness that encompasses all of those bullet points from above.  What if we could shift and spend these next many months building more resilient, healthy, fitter bodies and minds from the ground up?

What if we took away the catalyst for override and we actually take time to be in our bodies, and experience our sport organically.

My intention for these next many months is to promote moving in that direction; to help give tools and topics to help facilitate being a more  robust and happier athlete.

Try to imagine doing an interval set to just feel your body and feel it’s intensity without any pressure….that’s what I’m talking about.

We can continue to train, but it’s a fantastic way to do in a different way.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *