Thursday, May 5, 2022

Impact of training volume

There are a few factors you can influence to improve your athletic performance. These include training volume and training intensity. Volume is a result of training duration and training frequency. For years I have followed a minimalist approach that allowed me to just make it through some long-distance races like full Ironmans and ultra-marathons. In the 9 years before 2021 in which I tracked my training volume, I ranged between 4.2 and 8.5 hours of training per week (see also 2021/12/31). This would even be considered low, if you spend these hours in one sport, let alone in the THREE disciplines of a triathlon training plan. Somehow, it was sufficient for finishing long events, but for sure not enough if you wanted to do well. I was happy with my performance, and I couldn’t have invested more time anyway. I was comforted by a book I read many years ago about an elite German triathlete who trained even less than I did and excelled in long-distance events. See my posts about this book from January 3rd, 2013 and December 30th, 2019. In 2021, I made a big jump to 10 hours of training per week, most of it was in the second half of the year. So far, I have continued at this average in 2022. So, the big question is: Did it help? Have I gotten better? It is difficult to compare with the past using data from different races. Even when you compare between same races in different years, there is a lot that is still different, such as race course modifications or the temperature on the day, making an exact apples-to-apples comparison impossible. However, there are 2 events I repeated in 2 consecutive years that reveal a lot:

1.      1. Galala Challenge: I joined this cycling event the first time in November 2020 and again a year later, in October 2021. The best improvement indicator in the table below is the average speed that increased by 10% (from 27.0 to 29.7 km/hr).

2. Qarun 66 Ultra trail run: Between February 2021 and March 2022, my average pace improved by 9-10%.

I think these 2 data points illustrate quite convincingly the effect of an increase in training volume in my case. As I continue to learn how my performance reacts to changes in my training, I have a couple of questions I’d like to find the answers for in the future:

1.       1. I don’t think I can increase my volume even further. In fact, I doubt it. So, it will be interesting to see if there is at least any benefit in consistency, i.e. sticking with this volume for another year (… and another, … and another?). If everything goes to plan, I will have 2-4 opportunities to measure any potential improvement. These opportunities could be the Galala cycling challenge and Qarun 66 Ultra trail run again, in addition to the 130 km 2-day Hathor trail run in Sinai which I did in December 2021, and Ironman Egypt 70.3 (half-ironman) which I did in November 2021.

2.       2. How will I perform in shorter events? Will I be better? I don’t expect I’ll have a conclusive answer for this question because I miss the basis for comparison. Firstly, the only short race I joined last year was Trifactory’s Somabay Olympic distance triathlon in April 2021. However, because of high winds, the swim and bike legs were cut short in 2021, which will make it difficult to compare with. I’ll find out in a few weeks. The race is on May 28th. And second, I am also experimenting a bit with the intensity element of my training. I don’t know yet where I’ll go with this, but I know that it has the potential to impact my performance at least as much as volume, if not more, in shorter events. It will be too early to see any effect in Somabay though.

I’ll keep you posted.

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