Training Hard or Hardly Training?

In the triathlon world there is often kudos given for doing “more” training. It is thought to be hardcore to add an extra rep to your session, or if you do a little extra, then you have prepped yourself a bit better for your race. Social Training Apps reward big weeks or rank athletes based on miles completed or otherwise.

This sets up a very bad culture of "more is best". Training smart is about doing the minimum amount of training stress for the maximum effect. How little can you get away with? More stress means more need for recovery or a higher risk of injury or burn out.


10,000 Hours is Only One Part of the Equation

Malcolm Gladwell made the 10,000 hour rule main stream in terms of ensuring people do their time for improvement – If you wanted to become an expert in your skill, you had to bank 10,000hrs of deliberate practice. Though there are arguments about the actual figure, the basis is true. To get better at something, you need to spend time deliberately practicing the skill. Training for a sport is no different. However, what is not mentioned with the 10,000 hour statement is how that training time is spent or the 8,000 hours of sleeping and 12,000 hours of recovery too. You need to absorb the hours of practice and recover from them.

This is really significant as it would be like Pythagoras stating that the hypotenuse of a right angled triangle is the square root of one side squared. Focusing on training only is clearly only one part of the equation. If we use Pythagoras’ example, we simply won’t get the answer we want, we won't get the actual answer. In other words, it doesn't work! 

Training more does not result in world class performance – even Training Peak's Performance Management Chart is somewhat volume orientated as it is generated by Training Stress Scores. A combination of Chronic Training Load and Chronic Training Intensity gives us some real insights to actual load on the individual depending on the style of training. In other words, we are looking at the whole picture.


That Which is Measured, is Improved

This is certainly true. However, if we are only looking at one part, then we are only ensuring improvement of one part. For example. If we only measure training improvements, how do we know if the rest and recovery has also been optimised?

In other words, the training has to be deliberate, focussed and progressive and we need to complete the right dose of training with adequate recovery in order to make it progressive. If you find yourself bragging about your latest week’s volume, you should be also supporting that statement with the amount of time you have also properly recovered, or slept. Not boasting how you fit it in by sleeping less or did it off the back of a 12 hour work day.

As Ollie Stoten said before one race performance recently: "I am looking forward to recovering hard this week”. Training hard on its own does not lead to performance increases and at the end of the day, you don’t get a medal for having done the most training in the months before an event, you get a medal for your performance on race day and for that to be true, you need to look at all the parameters of performance increases, not just one, otherwise you are likely to find you are hardly training at all.