It's like a curse word to runners, spoken in hushed whispers: overtraining.
Overtraining is what happens when your body can't recover fast enough after repeated workouts, races and long runs. If you don't plan proper recovery, you'll never super-compensate, or get in better shape by adapting to your current workouts, and race faster.
The simple solution is to avoid the "three too's": too much, too soon, too fast. This helps keep you within your limits, and prioritizes recovery so you're not doing too much mileage or speedwork before you're ready for it.
More: 5 Signs of Overtraining
But there are other strategies that you can implement during training to help you reach your race goals.
Stop Racing So Frequently
I know that races are fun. And I definitely think with a good pacing strategy you can run 1 to 3 races per month during your peak season of running. But any more than that, especially for more than 1 to 2 months, is asking for undue fatigue.
Racing puts a lot of stress on the body. By its very definition, racing is a 100 percent maximum effort. You're trying to go as fast as possible, after all. The stress is more than just muscle fatigue; it's hormonal and even neuromuscular (the communication pathway between your brain and muscles).
For most of the year, focus on training instead of racing, and save racing for when you know you're in good shape and want to reap the rewards of all your hard work.
More: Are You Racing Too Much?
Take Your Sleep Seriously
There's a reason why pro marathoner Ryan Hall calls his afternoon nap a "business meeting." It's part of the job of running ? if you have the time, of course.