Training Are You Training Enough?

Are You Training Enough?


Ed McNeely


Before you get too far into this running season take a look back at last season. Did you get everything out of it you hoped for? If not why not? For many people the answer is simple, they failed to walk that fine line between optimal training and overtraining; either under or overtraining. For most people getting the volume of training right is the first step.

Training volume is the amount of work that is performed. Many coaches and endurance athletes use the number of meters or kilometers covered as the measure of training volume. While this is an acceptable measure it does not always give the full picture of training. For example if athlete A does a 20 km workout in 90 minutes and athlete B covers the same 20 km in 60 minutes they are not doing the same workout and won’t get the same training effect even though the volume as measured by distance is the same. Time is a better measure of training volume as it is allows athletes of varying level to be compared on an equal level.

Annual training volume has a direct effect on performance. For many athletes work, school, and family commitments influence their training volume, limiting them to four or five hours of training per week. As in almost every sport you get out of training what you put in, your training goals and time commitment need to be compatible; expecting to win an Olympic medal by training six hours per week is unrealistic as is winning a national championship on three hours per week of training. Table 1 shows the desired training volume by competitive level. In order to continue to improve within your competition level or move to a higher level you must increase training volume from year to year. Even at the elite level there has been a steady increase in total training volume over the past 30 years, increasing from and average of 924 hours per year in the 1970’s to 1128 hours per year in the late 1990’s, a 20% increase.

Increasing training volume must be done gradually, rapid increases in training volume can quickly lead to overtraining and injuries; this is very common when an athlete makes the jump from one competitive level to another without having planned for the transition the previous year. As a rule of thumb annual increases in training volume should not exceed 5-10% of the previous years volume.

Table 1. Training volume by competitive level

Competitive Level Training Volume (hrs/year)






Masters/High school






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