Should I peak for an entire season or just one event?

Here's a question I was asked the other day:

"Lots of talk about training to "peak" at the right time of year or for an event but my question is how long can you stay at your optimal or peak performance? Is it possible to maintain it over the race series or is it best to focus on an individual race or two?"

Peaking for one event versus peaking for a series or even an entire season is a tough decision and can dramatically change how you structure your training in the off-season.  With more races on the calendar and our local and national series sometimes spanning eight months, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out how to do well at every event.  However, peaking for just one or two events can be incredibly stressful and can put an enormous amount of pressure on a rider to do well.  And if that one event doesn’t go well is the whole season a bust?  So what should you do?

First thing is figure out what events you want to do well at.  If you find your list is quite long then you should consider trying to “peak” for the entire season.  If you have only one or two major events that you want to do well at, then you can go for one or two major peaks.  

Here are the benefits and drawbacks to both approaches: 

Peaking for the season:

  • You have to be race fit a lot sooner, usually in late March or early April, and you have to maintain that fitness a lot longer
  • If you are trying to do well in a series, there is less pressure at each individual race
  • Your race fitness won’t be 100% at every race if you are doing a season long series
  • It can be a mental strain to always feel like you have to do your best at every race you go to
  • If one race doesn’t go well you have many other races in the series to make up for a poor performance
  • Even if you don’t end up doing well in the overall standings of a series, you can always look back at some of your better individual results

Peaking for one or two big events:

  • You don’t have to be race fit quite so soon in the season
  • It is easier to focus your training on just one event
  • You can still go to lots of other races, but the pressure to do well isn’t as high because your focus is on the “big” race coming up
  • You can train through a lot of early season races
  • The pressure will be a lot higher at your big event
  • The mental and physical preparation for your big event will be a lot more intense
  • If your big event doesn’t go well, is your entire season a bust?
  • If your big event does go well then you will have a fantastic result and an incredible emotional high from doing so well at the most important event of the season

 Which method is best depends on you and the kind of rider you are.  Figure out what’s important to you, how much money you can spend for the season, and ask yourself how you perform under pressure.  Weigh the pros and cons of each and then decide what works best for you.  Try one approach for this season and then maybe try the other for the next season.  If you’re willing to work hard you can do well at either one. 

Good luck and happy trails!