Volume vs Intensity – The endurance athlete’s conundrum

volume vs intensity

I think that if you are an endurance athlete of any type, to become good at it you need to do it a lot. Someone once told me that you should train as much as you can without doing any the following:

– breaking down
– burning out
– losing your job
– losing your spouse

Most of the science points to the fact that the sheer amount of time you train has a stronger effect on your performance than any other factor. And according to Matt Fitzgerald, in his very good book called “Racing Weight“, the reason has to do with efficiency. He says that a low-volume, high-intensity approach to training will increase your aerobic capacity (VO2 Max), as much as a high-volume, low intensity program. On a high-intensity programme, however, you stop improving as soon as your VO2 Max hits a genetically defined ceiling, which doesn’t take long (hence the success of time crunched, high intensity programmes, seeing quick gains). But, he argues, with a high-volume programme, you become more and more efficient the longer you keep doing it, and so your race performances keep improving too.

The reason the high volume yields ongoing efficiency gains is that each time you take a stride, or turn the pedals, it is an opportunity to practice that movement. The more you repeat it, the more practice you get. This gives your neuromuscular system chance to find more ways to trim waste from the movement pattern.

So I would conclude that efficiency is what we are striving for.  And that comes from practice, and more practice.

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