Updated: Oct 6, 2021
If you’re always trying to complete a certain amount of training each week, you could be doing more harm than good. If you identify with any of these thoughts, read on.
"I’m too tired to do an interval session today; I’ll do an hour easy instead."
"I just need to make sure I run at least (insert time or distance) per week."
"As long as I can get in (insert time or distance) of training I’ll be going well."
Quality over quantity
If you’re always trying to complete a certain amount of training each week, you could be doing more harm than good. Training volume addicts are serial dodgers of hard sessions.
When you focus on how much training you’re doing, you tend to forget why you're training. Hard training is where you learn to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. When you complete a hard session, you’re getting more than just a physical benefit. Hard training sessions such as intervals and time trials teach you two things:
What you are capable of, and
How tired you are.
Ignoring intervals and time trials can result in continual disappointment because you may:
Assume you’re faster than you are, or
Assume you’re less tired than you are.
Validating your fitness based on how much training you’ve completed is a slippery slope. Yes, you will be fit, but will you be race fit? Your race is going to hurt, and when it does, there’s a high chance your fitness won’t save you from the pain you’ve been avoiding in training. And if the pain doesn’t throw you off, the hours of built-up fatigue that’s been left unchecked probably will. Front up to the hard stuff. There’s no doubt that continuous easy training can provide you with amazing benefits, but without monitoring your progress via hard intervals or time trials, you have no way of accurately gauging your fitness or fatigue.
Rest isn’t your enemy
If you do your hard training session and realise you’re a little ways off where you thought you were, the answer isn’t to do more. Take a day or two off, and give it another go next week. If you're still not hitting the times you thought you were capable off, you'll need to adjust your race goal.
Dr Will O'Connor
Educating and inspiring athletes to train smarter