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Yesterday I gave you this tidy guideline that says 20 percent of your weekly training volume should be at intensity and the other 80 percent should be aerobic.


Seems straightforward doesn’t it?


If read deeper into the research paper from yesterday’s column, you’ll find this comment:


Elite endurance athletes train 10-12 sessions and 15-30 h each week.  Is the pattern of 80 % below and 20 % above lactate threshold appropriate for recreational athletes training 4-5 times and 6-10 hours per week?  There are almost no published data addressing this question.


First, I’d like to separate non-elite athletes into two categories:

-          Recreational Athletes: Training and racing is for fun and fitness. Though they would like to perform well at races and in comparison to training partners, training and racing in not a priority compared to many other things life has to offer. These athletes are not concerned with every angle possible to improve performance.

-          Serious Age Group Athletes: Training and racing is a key part of lifestyle. Performance at races and in training is a priority. Training plans, recovery techniques, equipment advantages and many of the aspects of elite racers are utilized. These athletes ARE concerned with every angle possible to improve performance.


For the remainder of the blog, I’m talking to the serious age group athlete. If that is you, keep reading.


You see, you are a complicated beast. You want to emulate professional racer’s training – but few of you have the privileges of the pros. (Complete recovery, quality fueling, massage, ice baths, sleeping 8-10 hours every night with naps during the day, spouses or staff to help you with anything that doesn’t involve training and/or racing, youth, etc.)


Many of you are A-type personalities that are driven to success. Some of this drive made you perform above and beyond the call of duty to get to your current status in life. If others work hard, you will work harder.You now want to apply what made you succesful in school, business and life to athletics.


Some of you believe that because you don’t have the volume of time to train that the pros have – you should train more volume at higher intensities. I cannot prove that this is - or is not true.


I can make the argument that the 80:20 rule applies across the board. But, of course I cannot prove that this is - or is not true with hard data.


I’d like you to contemplate a few things:

-  Athletes that cook themselves into illness or injury are seldom willing to publicize this failure. It doesn’t matter whether it’s done with intensity or volume. Repetitive injury or chronic fatigue is not good.

-  The multisport athlete’s training is more complicated than a single-sport athlete.

-  Though the research defines “intensity” – should the same intensity weighting be given to all training zones? (Several sources have designed training stress scoring systems based on power, pace and heart rate to name a few. Zone 3 intensity is less stressful than Zone 5b – how should this be accounted for across all sports?)

-  Should the same intensity weighting be given to Zone 4 cycling and swimming that Zone 4 running receives?

-  Should recovery in daily training receive the same considerations as recovery from racing?

-  Do athletes living at altitude need another factor because there is less oxygen at altitude to recover from hard workouts? Maybe these athletes need less than 20 percent of the volume at intensity? (Altitude Training for Athletic Success)


And the biggest question is….


What is the absolute minimum amount of intensity that will bring athletic improvement?


This number not only brings athletic success but also minimizes risk of illness and injury.


I think the number is individual and I think several athletes can be less than the 20-percent number and see success. I also think there are some athletes that need slightly more than the 20-percent value.


So, if you’re a self-coached athlete, where do you begin?


1.  First track what you have been doing and get a picture of your current status.

2.  Make calculated changes and then track your success or failure.

3.  If it all becomes too confusing, use the 80:20 and the 2-4 key workouts per week rules of thumb as a starting place.

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