Archive for volume

Consistency and Volume

Posted in Triathlon with tags , , , , , , , on February 4, 2012 by brianestover

This post is about why consistency matters and why overall volume matters for running. I also realize I owe you guys the third installment of It’s Not About the Track. Right now the first two installments of that series are most relevant for triathletes looking to race well this spring and summer.

Why does consistency matter so much? It’s consistency that facilitates the training effect. It’s the day after day training that enables you to improve. Being consistent gives you the ability to do things in training an inconsistent athlete can’t do. If they are brave enough to do it, it will bury them taking them away from being consistent for a few days. If you are consistently running 30 miles per week 5 days per week and you decide to go run an extra 30 minutes one day, it’s that consistency and volume that enables you to range up without dinging yourself too much. If you are running 5 days per week, your improvement will be greater and your ability to do a large workload higher then the athlete who runs 5 days one week, two days the next, then four days, then 3 days. Workload matters. The higher your workload the more you can do. The more you can do, the faster you improve. It’s hard to have a high, consistent workload if you are inconsistent. Consistency is the foundation a high workload is built on. Consistency also breeds volume.

Nick Baldwin

Volume is important because it’s the volume that allows you a greater margin of error in your racing. If you are only running 25 miles per week your run fitness will not match that of someone running 35 miles per week. Your margin of error pacing the bike, no matter how great your bike fitness, is smaller the less volume you consistently average. The worse you pace the bike the more your run suffers regardless of run fitness. The less volume you run, the more your run suffers due to early run pacing errors. You have less room to screw things up with less volume. Or conversely, the more volume you consistently have, the more you can screw things up and still end up with a good result. Even if you pace the bike properly, the more fit of a runner you are, the more likely you are to pull that rabbit out of the hat when you screw up. You can be the best biker out there, but if your run is crap, you will be seeing lots of butts pass you by. Low volume typically yields crappy runs.

To sum things up, consistency allows your workload to be higher. Higher workloads allow you to improve faster. More volume makes you a fitter runner, sooner. A higher volume of weekly running also gives you more room to screw things up in a race and still have a good result.

The Track is NOT the Answer – Part I

Posted in Triathlon with tags , , , , , on June 18, 2011 by brianestover

This post is also going to be about why you should not think about the track as the first solution to running faster. But before I get to that, James hit the track the last two weeks to race in his local summer track series. The first week he sets a new 1 mile PB with a 4:52. This week he set a new 5k PB running 16:35. He did this without running one track workout.

James at White lake Half

I read forums, speak with and/or overhear triathletes and runners all the time saying I’ve got to hit the track to get faster. Well they are wrong the overwhelming majority of the time. Sure you can hit the track, bang out some intervals and see some speed improvement. If you want a short term, fleeting solution, that’s your solution. In 3 months odds are you are going to be right where you are now. Maybe with a better final 400m in a race. I’ve yet to be convinced throwing down over the final 400m is a good solution when you’ve ignored the previous 9600 meters in a 10k. It’s akin to stepping over quarters and dimes to pick up pennies. But if you would rather have a really fast last 400 but get smoked during the rest of the race stop reading here.

If hitting the track and banging out quarters is out, what’s in? Figuring that out requires you to be honest with yourself when you look at your training over the last 6-8 weeks. What is your frequency, duration, intensity and volume over that time? Once you have those figured out, you have a rough idea what your total workload is. If you have run 23, 21, 37, 21, 31 miles over the last five weeks, and you say “I’ve been running 27 miles per week(mpw)” you just blew smoke up your ass. A more honest assessment would point to about 24-25mpw.

The very first thing you need to do is become consistent. Day in day out, week in week out, month in month out. Its the day after day after day after week after week after month after month after month consistency that allows you to maximize your progress. If you lack consistency you are short changing yourself. Figure this out before going any further.

If your frequency is below five times of running per week, you most likely would benefit from an increase in frequency. I had a conversation with a co-worker about half a year ago who is also a triathlete. He was running twice per week. We looked at his schedule and added in 3×20 minute runs progressing to 3×40 minute runs. He knocked 10 minutes off his 10k road race PB…in a triathlon. 1 minute per km or :10 faster over the last 400m? No brainer. My co-worker’s problem was the most frequent problem I see in triathletes. Not enough frequency thereby resulting in insufficient volume. We built his volume through frequency instead of just increasing his volume. Those 3×20 minute runs represented half of his total weekly duration. 3×40 minutes was doubling his volume. How much do you think you would improve if you ran two weeks every week?

Coach Brian starting the Vineman 70.3 Run

Increasing frequency and volume develop the physiological adaptations that yield long lasting benefits towards running faster such as increased economy, increased capillarization, increased mitochondrial enzymes and increased glycogen storage. Making these adaptations is the result of more frequency and more volume each playing their part. The first thing you need to figure out though is how to develop more frequency if you are in the 2-4x runs per week group.

Before we get any further, I’m not a big believer in training folklore. I’m calling bullshit on the only increase your mileage 10% per week rule. If you are brand new to running or injury prone then that might be a good rule. If you are trending below your historical weekly average then you can safely go above the 10% misnomer er I mean rule. If you’ve been running a long time you can go above it.

The average triathlete seems to run 3-4x per week. We have already concluded to get faster that is not ideal. Running 5-6 times per week for triathletes seems to yield the best bang for your training buck. How do you go from 3-4x per week to 5 and or 6x per week? Start small that’s how. You don’t need to get out the door for a 9 mile run. You do need to get out the door though. If you are running 3x per week, add in 2 days around 15-20 minutes. Run them easy. The goal is to increase your mileage through frequency not haul ass twice a week for 15-20 minutes. If you are running 4x per week add in a 5th day. Follow the same guidelines. Head out the door for 15-20 minutes. It’s really that simple for now.

Cory at Boise 70.3

If you’ve been running 3x per week for 45 minutes per run that’s 2:15 of running. Hardly enough to make lasting gains that will follow you from season to season. Two 15 minute runs represent an increase of 30 minutes or 22%. The recovery cost of a 15 minute run is extremely low, especially if you run easy, which is what you are tasked with. In five weeks you will have run the equivalent of 6 weeks. In 12 months you’re mileage would equal 14 months of what you ran previously. If you are running 8:00 per mile it’s 3.75 miles per week more running, which is further then the run leg of a sprint triathlon. It’s not a Herculean task. You can do these when ever you want, for now though, just get out the door and run easy a few extra times per week.

The next installment will cover how to increase your volume once your frequency is stable at 5x per week.