Learn how subtle year-to-year increases in training volume can pay off in the long run.
Written by: Kevin Beck
The important thing to keep in mind about training volume is that the level a given runner can handle is a fluid quantity. That is, a runner who remains healthy most of the time can very reasonably expect to be able to effectively train more and more as the years pass. (My use of “effectively” here implies that handling the training means not merely surviving it, but becoming stronger over time and thus benefiting from the workload.) I’ve seen this happen even during periods of performance stagnation; in fact, an increase in workload is commonly accompanied by lackluster racing, sometimes with steps backward, after which adaptation is achieved and a performance breakthrough occurs. Of course, runners have to be realistic about whether a jump in volume that results in excessive fatigue and poor competitive efforts is truly something bound to result in new reservoirs of strength or whether it is simply a matter of chronic overshoot that can only end badly. This is why it is always useful to have a second set of trusted eyes on your training, particularly when making significant changes that entail greater demands.
I cannot recall a single instance in which, all else being equal, a runner who starts modestly and diligently and wisely indulges in training increases over a period of years fails to become a faster competitor. Note the caveats: Someone who’s running 80 miles a week as a precocious high-schooler may never thrive on much more than that, and someone who discovers running at age 30 and ramps up from 25 miles a week to 75 within a year may quickly find that her race results are wanting, assuming she is still upright. But it seems to be a fact that if a runner slowly increases his volume—and alas, I can’t pin a number on this, and neither can anyone else—over a period of years, remains healthy, and is careful to take some honest down time after periods of especially intense training and racing will invariably become faster. This in no way implies that improvement is unbroken by setbacks; as with most things in life, a graph of achievement level vs. time much more closely resembles a jagged “sawtooth” trending ever upward than a straight, unbroken line.Pages: 1 2