Quality Vs Quantity: Training Efficiency

Around this time every year as we begin to look towards the season ahead we set our goals and decide what we want to achieve in the new season. We then begin to consider how exactly we can attain these steps to reach our goals. I can guarantee for most people the word “more” will appear in that list of processes: “Do more swim sessions”; “Do more stretching”; “Attend more of the club rides” etc. etc.

The question is: Should we actually be doing more?

On first meeting most amateurs that I coach I am told that they can do 14+ hours of training as their average training week but that they could “probably do a couple more”.

So can they really do “more”? Is more what they really want to do? The rest of the athletes I coach regularly tell me that they feel they ought to be doing extra training to improve their performance. This is certainly true in some instances (you will never win a triathlon by never getting on a bike!), however improving the efficiency of the sessions that they do will reap greater improvements and mean a fair work/life/training balance.

In many instances people could indeed squeeze in an extra training session, but at what cost? By adding in that extra swim, bike or run what are you giving up on? What are you losing to get that extra gain? Most people are doing their current volume of training because that is “all they have time for” so if they increase the volume, something else has to give. Is it family time, work time, or perhaps it’s your recovery time (which as a coach is a worrying thought– after all you get fast by recovering, not training!)?

As we are currently living in a time of cost cuts and limited resources, be it the economy or the environment. We should be as ruthless when regarding our training sessions and our training overall. Instead of asking yourself: “What can I do more of to improve?”, you should ask yourself: “What can I do better to improve?”. This concept of efficiency will let you get the very best out of your training and allow you to improve on your performances which will result in a more balanced and enjoyable life and triathlon season. So take the opportunity in the down time to think about what you can do better to make each training session more efficient. Here are a few thoughts:

  • 1. Have a good strength and conditioning pre season programme. 
  • 2. If you become injured through overuse in the middle of the season, a lot of the work you did before the training session becomes wasted time. Try not to get injured by ensuring you have frequent “MOT’s” with the same physio and ensure you work on flexibility and conditioning. 
  • 3. If you are doing every session tired, are you actually working on speed, power or muscular strength, or just wearing yourself down? Ensure you are eating the right foods and resting enough between session. 
  • 4. If your muscles aren’t firing properly, or you lack a range of motion, then every time you train, you are losing speed and power and not training to your full potential. Warm up and “turn on”/activate the muscles you need so as not to improve the wrong motor patterns. For Example after sitting at your office all day, you race out the door to go on your run – did you do any form of activation? Sitting down will only inhibit or turn off your glutes. What muscles are you now using to compensate for this imbalance – is this efficient training? 
  • 5. Seek advice or help with your training programme. This could be with a professional coach, a training partner or a training plan. Be very critical: how can you become more efficient in your training with the time you have. 

Think about every bit of training you do to be as efficient as possible. Rarely in life do we reach a point of 100% efficiency in fact most people seem to exist in 100% entropy! However, by ensuring that we still do the hard work and commit to our training programme whilst improving on the training we have previously done, you will see some real gains in the upcoming season. Only after you have completed all your training as efficiently as possible do you want to then start thinking about increasing your training volume.

Train Smart,

Coach Philip