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Since having children and turning 40, Ive found that time and recovery are more critical than ever. I made the decision to give up competitive racing the summer I hit 40. For the last 5 years I've adopted the "intensity" over "volume" approach to save time and maintain high end fitness.
My controlled lactate threshold tests show that I still produce the same watts at threshold as I did back in my 30s when I was racing--except I'm lighter now! Back then I trained 10-15 hours a week. I now train 5-7 hours a week. I just do a lot more work at threshold and Vo2--lots of intervals most of the year. I would NEVER go back to flogging big weeks the way I did during my racing days. Intensity keeps things fresh and focused, and when it's time to do a 3-4 hour, you actually enjoy it, because you earned it with all those efforts. If you're going to Leadville, well, you better log the miles, but if you want to save time, stay strong, and still mix it up occasionally in a local race or with friends, prioritizing intensity is a great approach.

Tom Bell

Really good piece Joe.

I'm very much subscribed to the paradigm that training intensity should have an inverse relationship with available training time, i.e. intensity up as available time goes down.

However, I think that when time does allow, training for longer periods of time should be encouraged to keep on-top of more basal levels of endurance, to gain the benefits that come with increased duration over intensity (e.g. mitochondrial development, slow twitch muscle stress, etc). That approach tends to balance time-crunched training quite well in my experience.


Thanks for this good reminder. Indeed, a lot of people tend to be focused on volume with the number of miles as the Holy Grail.
I've been asked many times "How many miles have you been doing ?"
Thought mileage is important (I practice mainly mountain running), I also use hours AND intensity.
I also use my TSS. However, I have a question :
Should my CTL (Chronic Training Load) also increase when in a intensity-focused training block ? As my volume is low, I usually find that my CTL tends to stagnate even though I'm doing intense workout (anaerobic and threshold).
Does this mean that I'm not doing enough intensity ?
I find that when I focus on volume (when training for a 100-miler for example), i have no problem raising my CTL (it makes sense since I probably train double the amount of time).

Thanks !

Joe Friel

Frederic--Yes, it's common for CTL to drop when the workouts become shorter and more intense. This is commonly a concern for many who race short events--5k runs, track cycling, crits, etc. One way to get a better picture of how your fitness is progressing is to use CIL (Chronic Intensity Load) instead of CTL. That can only be done right now by using WKO4.


Thanks for your response and valuable input. I will look into "CIL" (I have never heard of it). That would be valuable as my CTL going down, it's hard to know if I'm training in the good direction.




One thinking about intensity and cycling race: All the training method promote training at Threshold or PMA during intensive session but when you look at power meter curve during competition, power gets up and down highly above and below the threshold because of riding in pack promote acceleration and bracking. Why does we do a big part of training mimicking it, like 5 second at 150-200% ftp and 5sec 20-30% ftp ? For me it would be a good idea to combine this type of training with low intensity training. What do you think about that ?

Thank you !

Joe Friel

MaxBourguignon--In the build period workouts should become increasingly like the demands of the race you are training for. In the base period they are generally unlike the race demands. That's the basic rule of periodization. Do whichever is appropriate at the right times in your training.


Is this the article you were looking for?


Joe Friel

Gary: Yes. Thank you.

Roger Lahaije

Last year I did my first olympic distance with a HIM 6 weeks later. I did not really do any intense training sessions, just the volume I personally felt was necessary. I finished the HIM with a lot of climbing in it in 5:57. So after that I decided to follow a training program which had about that 60% of intensity stuff. On my peak weeks I trained 12 hrs. So a year later I finished yesterday another HIM with considerably less climbing in 5:37. This time it was a struggle: cramps, knee aching. I am 50 now. But i hoped the change in training method at least would have made it easier for me. So my view is that next time I would again do more low intensity larger volumes and integrate a little bit of intensity, maybe 20%. I had hopes of doing an Ironman next year but after yesterdays race I have strong doubts. The only positive thing is that I finished the swim under 40 min.

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