Train Like You Race

By Noa Deutsch 4 min read
Train Like You Race

But maybe that should not be the case...? 🤔

This topic came about while chatting to a young rider who used to race at a high level in one sport (sailing), and has now moved on to another sport (cycling). He has been riding for a few years now, but is still a bit new to the sport as a whole. During his latest bike fitting appointment, we were working on his posture, how he was interacting with the bike and the difference between how to ride relaxed, how to change the position for efforts and how posture changes between the two conditions and how it affects muscle recruitment, comfort, overall performance and more. He was riding the same, regardless of the context of the workout, because he was always told to train like you race.

He subscribes to this publication and I promised I will dive into this topic in more detail for everyone's reading pleasure, so here we are.

Should you train like you race?

As always, context is everything and it depends on various factors (if you have worked with me before, you'll know that it depends is basically my catch phrase).

Train like you race, sure, but should you do that all the time? Can you do that all the time? Another example is eat like you when you race. Yes, totally. But every single workout? Probably not.

A super quick Google search will land you on websites that tell you that if you want to race fast, you need to train fast. I guess on the surface, that makes sense. But I want to dig a bit deeper than surface level and give you a bit of food for thought here.

Nothing New on Race Day

Trying something new on race day can end in disaster. That said, years ago, someone I know once called triathlon a fancy word for 'shit happens' and it stuck with me (the same can be said for cycling too). You can plan not to do anything new on race day, but sometimes (read: almost all the time) something will happen and that plan might go out the window and you'll need to adapt and go to plan B on the fly, which might end up including something new on race day after all.

Most sports happen in an open environment, meaning there are a lot of factors that can not be controlled like the environment (ie. weather) and what other competitors do around you. As a result, the only thing you can plan for is how to react to things that come up unexpectedly. Directly training for it is challenging, other than potentially doing training races (like local crits), hard group rides that ideally take you over different routes as opposed to the same route every time and with different riders. When you always ride with the same people, you get to know their riding styles, how they react to things, etc. There is a certain level of predictability which is nice, but it does not necessarily help you learn how to adapt when riding with people you don't know, which is likely to happen in many events. The same goes for routes.

On the other hand, if you want to go fast in a TT event for example, and you have not spent enough time in the TT position in training, there is a very good chance you will hurt and not perform very well (or a combination of the two). This also goes for various technical skills needed for whatever sport you take part in.

Training Intensities, etc

I have seen people interpret train like you race as needing to always go hard, always go fast, always push.

If you have a well rounded training plan, you will train at various intensities and lets face it, most of them are going to be a fair bit easier than your race day intensity. Some of them, usually a relatively small amount, will be harder than your race day intensity. Some will be more similar to race intensity, too. As a result, it is impossible to always 'train like you race' - There is a time and a place for everything and you need to get good at knowing when it is a good idea, and when its just diminishing returns or worse, a recipe for developing injuries, overtraining and more.

This will also change depending on the phase of the season you are in. Closer to your events, regardless of what those are, you will want to do more specific training sessions, ones that help you prepare appropriately. Lets go back to that TT example, or riding in an aero position in general. You need to practice riding in those positions, ideally in race specific watts. Realistically, you simply can not, and should not do that on every single ride - Trying to get aero while doing a recovery ride for example is not really all that effective, and kind of negates the whole point of a recovery ride.


So, should you train like you race? Some of the time.

The magic lies in figuring out the best time and place to do so for your individual needs, goals, overall health and longevity in sport. Side note - The last two are pretty important in my opinion, as I am a believer that sport is for life, just perhaps in different capacities throughout the years.

I hope you found this article valuable and interesting. The goal here was to give you a bit of food for thought and I hope I achieved that. I would love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to comment below and share this post with others!

Noa