Endurance Nation Volume Strategy Series, Part I: Why Go Long

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This three part series will look at how age group triathletes can use volume to reap the benefits of going longer without compromising their current training cycles. This is Part 1 of 3.

2009 is fresh out of the oven and there’s a lot of season planning going on in the tri world. Or at least there should be in yours! But now that your races are locked in, some tiny part of you is probably already panicking, thinking that there’s not enough time to get fit…already….and it’s only January!

Background on Volume Confusion

Open a tri magazine, ask questions in a forum, talk to that experienced training partner and the most common solution proposed is consistent, relatively high volume training extended across the season. These traditional coaching methodologies use outdated versions of periodization and advocate that age groupers train for Half- or Full-IM distance races by building an aerobic base throughout the winter, then adding distance, then adding intensity, and then racing.

This training model breaks down for three reasons:

  1. Adding intensity on top of your longest rides/runs/swims of the year prior to race day is just too much for anyone to handle.
  2. Age groupers have a finite amount of time to exercise. Once you build up to a 5 hour ride on Saturdays, for example, you don’t have the option to add more aerobic time to force adaptation…your real world life doesn’t follow the imaginary schedule that the author of that book you are reading outlined.
  3. Asking your family and life to accommodate 7-10hrs of training, every weekend, beginning early in the season, is a sure path to burnout, unemployment and divorce. You live in the real world and training volume should reflect THAT reality, not the recommendations calculated by a spreadsheet!

Big Volume Benefits

The benefits increased volume of training are important to long course triathletes. Most notably, aerobic volume forces adaptations in our slow twitch muscle fibers, our workhorses on race day.

Big Volume for Age Group Triathletes

Here’s the rub…volume is important for long course triathletes, but it’s not a panacea. You can’t just swim/bike/run aerobically for hours a day and expect to arrive at the finish line ready to compete. And since we know your schedule won’t allow you to do 20+ hour weeks without getting a divorce or doing unemployment, we need a better way. Rather than nickel and dime-ing your family, week after week, for an additional 1-2hrs on Saturday and Sunday, we believe in scheduling BIG volume for a very few concentrated, time efficient training weeks or weekends. Enter the Big Week.

Just as it sounds, we pick a week (or two) a year that is big time aerobic work. Contrary to the standard weekly training you do, this volume pop is a great shock to the system and provides a lot of gains without the constant sacrifices that a volume-heavy schedule requires. And since you are a good do-bee and live by the rules during the year, it’s easy to earn a hall pass for a week (or two) to get this training done.

So now you are sold on the volume…what type of volume is best? The title of the second installment of this series is a dead giveaway, but stay tuned to learn more… “First Step: Bike Volume”…


Coach P

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