Coach Culpepper: It Takes Balance

Quality vs. Quantity

There is ongoing debate over which is more important, quality or quantity. There is no hope of resolving this issue in one paragraph, but I can say with full certainty that there is a time and place for both. With all of the advancements in exercise science, we have come a long way from the days of simply doing more volume as a means of making up for a lack of proper training. That being said, it is clear that more volume leads to significant gains in aerobic development. The question we have to consider in our time-crunched realities is which one wins out in overall importance. Answer: It depends on the time of the year.

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In the off-season or during what should be a base-training phase, quantity should be the primary focus. If the choice is between a harder workout with less mileage and a moderate long run during the offseason, choose the longer run. There is simply no substitute for cumulative aerobic conditioning through more mileage over a period of several months. However, if you have made the transition into a more specific training block or race preparation phase than an emphasis on quality is appropriate. If you’re forced to choose one over the other, then a specific targeted workout, instead of maintenance mileage, will maximize the time you have allocated during your racing season.

o Don’t think of it as one versus the other, but both having a time and place.

o Quantity should be the focus during the off season; a gradual build up in volume can lead to huge gains come race season.

o Quality is key during the transition to racing or during the season.

Our lives are complicated enough, and your training should not be a burden to an already packed schedule. Designate a time each day dedicated to your training, find a group that can provide accountability and increased productivity to your workouts, and, lastly, appropriately concentrate on quality or quantity, which can all provide balance and efficiency to your running program.

This column first appeared in the July 2012 issue of Competitor magazine. 


About The Author:

Two-time U.S. Olympian Alan Culpepper coaches runners of all levels through


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