Feel like you need to train more? Here are some key things to consider...
There is so much written about the complexities of triathlon training, but one of the biggest over-riding performance factors that's often overlooked is training volume - how many hours you log per week. Ever wondered how much you should train each week in order to be at your best? The answer is that it varies from person to person, but from experience I would say that 9 or 10 hours clever training per week are sufficient for a talented athlete to win their age group in some races. To be a pro, it takes a talented athlete several years and about 30 hours per week. Whatever your level, it's likely that you too could improve by gradually increasing your volume. That's because a gradual increase in volume can stimulate your body to adapt to new training loads, and you'll become fitter and faster as a result. On the other hand, when you train at a certain level for several years (e.g 9 hours per week) your performance improvements inevitably start to plateau.
Increasing your training is easy in theory, but not in practice. I'm sure you'll admit that it's hard enough to find the time to train now, let alone finding time to increase it. And yet, people often find a way. For example, not many of the pros who win big races started off with sponsors or government sports funding. They just found some way of increasing their training time, be it working fewer hours or surviving on less money or whatever.
If you have a family to look after, working fewer hours or earning less may not be an option. Even so, there are a few things you can do to increase your training time that won't impact the rest of your life. One solution is to do most of your runs straight off the bike, rather than making them separate sessions. That way you combine two sessions into one, and still get the benefits of a race-specific workout. Another is to slightly increase the duration of your workouts, rather than trying to do a greater number of them. This means you won't waste your time travelling to extra training sessions, or getting showered and changed. Just avoid the temptation to add junk miles to your weekly regime. For example, an additional five mile bike ride to work and back may seem like time efficient extra training, but it's probably not a sufficient stimulus to make your body adapt.
If you can somehow find the time to do increase your training volume, you should do it very carefully. I wouldn't even think about increasing it until you can get through your current training load without feeling like you need a break. Then, if you feel ready to increase it, do so by no more than 10% per month. Five percent is better.
The Serious Triathlon Blog
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Phil Mosley is a triathlon coach and writer.