Yesterday I began a blog series on training principles. I covered the principle of overload in the first blog. Before moving to the topic of training volume, I want to add a comment about overload.You can overload training intensity, as well as training volume. In my experience, sudden and abrupt overloads in training intensity come with more risk than increases in volume. If you decide to overload intensity, carefully monitor your response during the workouts and in the days following an intensity overload block. Be ready to reduce intensity to stay healthy.
“Training volume can be defined as the combination of frequency and duration. When assembling your training plan, annual training volume is one piece of the puzzle. Broken down, the monthly, weekly and daily training volumes are as important as annual volume.”
In the last blog I mentioned annual and weekly training volume. Today I want to include comment about daily training volume. If you plan to do an endurance event that is some 30 minutes to 17 hours (perhaps the time it take to complete 5k run to the time it takes to complete an Ironman triathlon) long, what does the volume (or duration) of your longest training day (in hours and minutes) need to be?
The shorter the event, I tend to have athletes complete 100-percent of the expected event duration in a single training day. In other words, if your event is expected to take you between 30 minutes to 3 hours to complete, more than likely I’ll have you do a single training day that is between 30 minutes to 3 hours long.
For events expected to take less than an hour, I may have you complete double the expected event completion time in a single training day. Whether or not I double the time depends on your current fitness, the amount of time you have to train for the event, and your race goals. Experienced and highly fit racers with plenty of time to train for an event will complete double the expected event duration in training. Beginning athletes with little time to prepare will not.
I can’t think of a time that I’ve scheduled a training day in excess of about six to seven hours, or the time it takes to complete a century bike ride – whichever is longer. For situations where a training day will not mimic the event duration, my rule of thumb is to have the athlete complete 50- to 100-percent of the expected event duration over the course of two or three days (frequency). Most of the time these training sessions are on consecutive days, but there are exceptions.
Training volume can be manipulated over the course of days, weeks, months or years. Annual training volume may remain steady, while weekly training volume changes dramatically. Weekly training volume can remain steady, while daily training volume changes. How you tweek training volume depends on your current fitness, lifestyle, time available to prepare for the event and the expected event duration – your athlete profile.
Those of you that have been following my blog and recent column know I’ve been doing a “look back at training 20 years ago theme.”
Today’s post featuring “Hotshot Lance Armstrong, Age 16, Plano, Texas” has several key features I’d like to point out:
Earlier this spring I read a column written about Lance Armstrong where the author claimed that Lance’s VO2max as a young person had never been documented or published. I don’t recall the author or column title now and it’s not really that important; but, the author claimed that Lance's high childhood VO2max was fabricated and later published to give cover to high VO2max numbers posted when Lance was well into his professional cycling career. I knew I had read about his high VO2max when he was a youngster, but I couldn’t find the information anywhere in my files. I finally found it in a 1988 Triathlete magazine column. At age 16, his VO2max was measured at 79.5 (world class) - documented below.
In the training column I wrote recently, I noted that in the late 1980s people were doing very high volume training schedules. At age 16, Lance was swimming 10,600 meters, cycling 320 miles and running 30 miles in the given sample week training schedule. Doing some rough estimates at 2700 m/hr swimming, 18 mph cycling, and 8 minutes per mile running (all average because not all workouts are done at race pace) I come up with a weekly training volume around 25 hours. This is a big load and is typical for many of today’s professional triathletes.
“Junior” loves his mom.
Prize winnings went into a trust account.
It’s a fun column to read.
(Click on the column to get a larger and more readable view.)
Have a great weekend.
If you find something or someone inspiring, let me know. Drop a comment below.
I'm not sure what is bringing the volume vs intensity debates to the surface right now, but I'm getting lots of questions about what is more valuable, increasing training volume or intensity?
The answer depends on your current fitness and goals.
1) If you don't have the endurance to complete an event, then first you need endurance (volume). Heading into very intense workouts without a fitness base increases your risk for injury.
2) If you already have an endurance base, then whether you add more volume or intensity depends on what you are currently doing and your race goals. Let's consider extremes because the issue is easier to see. If you are currently training 10 hours per week, with your longest workout at three hours and your goal event is two-hours long then strategically adding more intensity will likely bring better results for you than adding more volume. If your goal event is 12-hours long then more volume, particularly focused in your long workouts will do you more good than more intensity.
To say intensity is better than volume (or vice versa) in all circumstances is like saying a table saw is always a better tool than a nail gun when you're building something big. Or, a table saw is the only tool to use when building something big. Makes no sense.