Amongst endurance athletes there is often debate about quantity versus quality. While I find that the exact definitions can be argued about forever, I believe the usual arguments centre around quantity generally being long slow distance, and quality to be synonymous with intense or fast training. Unfortunately I don't think subscribing to one side or the other is in an athlete's best interests.

I like to use the word quality when describing training in a different context. High intensity does not necessarily equate to quality. From a simple point of view, quality training is the training that will get you to your goal is the most appropriate manner.

The first step in achieving quality training is to understand the goals of the training. That is, knowing what you aim to achieve from the training, whether it be from an individual session, a group of sessions or over a longer period of time. These goals can be very specific or more general and can include some of the following: increased VO2max, increased endurance capacity, developing a proper hydration plan, reducing injury risk, increasing hamstring flexibility, improving swim technique, etc.

So how do I go about achieving and measuring the quality in a training session. First I decide on the purpose of the session. Second I decide on a specific focus that will allow me to achieve that purpose. Third I compare the results of the session with the first two points. For example my goal or purpose may be to improve my aerobic capacity for running. To achieve this my focus will be to run repeats within a pace range that is close to my VO2max, while allowing enough recovery between each repeat so I can complete the next one. Afterwards I will analyse the session to make sure I ran these repeats at the correct pace and use my heart rate profile as an extra guide to my performance. If I have managed to maintain the fast paces required, then that is a quality session.

Another example may be to extend my aerobic lypolytic (fat burning) abilities on the bike. To achieve this I need to choose a time frame that is slightly longer than previous rides, start the ride after an overnight fast, and maintain an appropriate effort level, usually below 80%HRmax. A poor quality session would be one in which I ride at too high an intensity or include too many short high intensity bursts so that I either exhaust my limited muscle glycogen supply or develop hypoglycaemia prior to the end of the allotted time. Notice that training too hard here is regarded as poor quality training.

"Concentrate on finding your goal, then concentrate on reaching it." - Michael Friedsam


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