Essential Sports Nutrition


Low(er) volume, high intensity training for endurance triathlon events

The definition of "high" or "low" volume training can vary from athlete to athlete. While I consider our training volume to be low compared to what some athletes do when training for an endurance triathlon event, it may also be seen as "high" volume compared to what other athletes do for long workouts. Since much of our weekly volume occurs from frequent training sessions (instead of two "long" workouts each week), I'd say that we have the right mix of intensity, frequency and volume to encourage training adaptations without risking injury or burnout. Certainly, this was years in the making with lots of trial and error and many athlete case studies to learn from.

Last year I was interviewed for a Triathlete magazine article on this topic of high/low volume training. I really enjoyed providing my insights on this topic for I feel many endurance triathletes adhere to haphazard training which includes high volume workouts. weekend after weekend. often in a sleep-deprived, poorly nourished state, that lack specificity and structure. In other words, the investment into training "long" does not pay off on race day as the athlete ends up burnt-out, injured or sick.  On the flip side, many athletes procrastinate with training and then suddenly ramp up training volume, which over-stresses the body and doesn't allow adequate time for physiological adaptations.

While there may be a right way to train for an endurance events and a wrong way to train, what's right or wrong for you is specific to you and only you. In today's social media, always connected world, it's easy to compare your training to someone else, feeling as if you are never doing "enough".  I believe that it takes time to "build" an endurance triathlete and it can't be done in one or two seasons. Just because you sign up for a half or full distance Ironman, this doesn't mean that the "right" type of training for you is loads of high volume workouts. Typically, we feel it takes a good 2-3 consistent-training years to gradually build a solid foundation of endurance training stress to be able to feel fully prepared to "race" in a half or full Ironman distance triathlete. And even if you don't plan to "race" a long distance triathlon event, this doesn't mean that you should skip steps or rush the process of preparing your body to handle long training sessions.

"In a time when likes and comments on social media give us instant validation of a workout well done, it’s easy to become wrapped up in the mindset that when it comes to training volume, bigger is better. After all, if your buddy is racking up the kudos for his weekly 20-mile runs and 75-mile rides while your Tuesday night three-miler goes unloved, it’s only natural to want to ramp up the mileage. But with heavy training comes the obvious risk of injury or burnout. And, often, those extra miles are just not worth it—or necessary."

To read more on this topic, you can check out the entire interview/article and my sample workouts below.....

Execute low volume-high intensity training